CEDAR FALLS | Investigators are trying to determine if a Nigerian citizen living in Georgia is connected to a 2014 data breach at the University of Northern Iowa that led to hundreds of stolen tax refunds.
Some 174 UNI workers went to authorities last year after they filed tax returns and received rejection notices because someone already filed under their identity.
Court records allege in October the names and personal information of numerous UNI employees were found on a computer linked to 44-year-old Bernard Ogie Oretekor, who is awaiting trial for federal wire fraud and money laundering charges in California. Also indicted was his alleged girlfriend, Chantale Petit-Frere, 47, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Oretekor has not been charged in connection with the UNI breach or the tax refund scam. UNI officials couldn’t be reached for comment over the weekend.
Oretekor is charged with engaging in an email phishing scheme to collect bank information from unsuspecting victims and raid their accounts. He charged with running an advance-fee fraud ruse, collecting fake taxes while promising a $19 million payout and then using the unwitting victims as “money mules” to channel funds from other scams.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” one agent with the California-based Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team Task Force investigating the case wrote to prosecutors.
Oretekor was detained in September, and in March forensic computer experts were still sorting through a “treasure trove of evidence” yielded from three computers, according to court records.
Computer experts have found more than 800 identities with personal information, 500 prepaid credit card numbers, forged Social Security cards and drivers’ licenses, and evidence of “large scale multi-state computer intrusions and subsequent tax return fraud,” records state.
Oretekor, a Nigerian citizen living in Ellenwood, Ga., is CEO of Shekinah Global Automotive and had been in the process of obtaining citizenship, court records state. He has used several names, including William Demorris, and claimed to be a diplomat from South Africa under the name “Emmanuel Libs,” records state.
Federal agents began looking into Oretekor’s activities in 2012 after a Santa Clara County, Calif., couple lost $312,115 from their brokerage account in an email account takeover scam.