- By Ben Brasch The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Prosecutors accuse a Smyrna man of tricking school districts across the country into sending him the personal information of thousands of workers and using it to file fraudulent tax returns.
Olukayode Ibrahim Lawal, 35, was indicted Thursday in Connecticut federal court.
Lawal, from Nigeria, was in the U.S. on an expired visa, prosecutors said. He came to America on Thanksgiving Day 2016, on a visitor’s visa but didn’t leave a week later as he was supposed to.
Lawal allegedly committed the crimes a couple of months later, according to an arrest affidavit written by an FBI cybercrime investigator.
The agent wrote that Lawal sent an email to a coastal Conneticut public school district employee that appeared to be from the school system’s superintendent. The email address was “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The email asked for a PDF of the W-2 forms and tax statements for all employees. The employee sent that information for the 1,300 school district employees.
The next day, the school system figured out something was wrong.
About 100 “suspicious” 1040 forms were filed in the names of the school’s employees, including some who were owed refunds, the feds said. Three of the bunk refunds were processed, and $23,000 was dispensed from the IRS.
Authorities said that with the personal info — names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and adjusted gross incomes — released some of the employees dealt with issues of identity theft.
IP address records show that somoene at Lawal’s apartment in Smyrna had the sensitive information in email accounts, according to court documents.
Another school district was duped and had 103 fake 1040s filed. A refund from one of those returns, totaling $4,207, was deposited into an account that had withdrawals in Marietta and Hiram.
Investigators said photos from one of those withdrawals at Bank of America show Lawal withdrawing the money.
In another Connecticut district where 122 tax forms were filed in the scheme, Lawal made out with about $37,000 in tax refunds.
Lawal also targeted school districts in Texas and Oklahoma, along with at least 11 businesses.
He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for his wire fraud charges.
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