CEDAR FALLS — The Georgia man suspected in the 2014 data breach and tax refund scam at the University of Northern Iowa has now been charged in a similar scheme involving University of Tennessee employees.
And court records indicate he is suspected in tax refund scams involving workers at Purdue and Butler universities in Indiana, Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and Michigan State University.
On Tuesday, an agent with the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division filed a complaint against Bernard Ogie Oretekor, 45, seeking charges of aggravated identity theft, possession of an authentication feature with intent to defraud and aiding and abetting. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis.
Oretekor, also known as Emmanual Libs, has been in custody in California since October 2014 when he was detained on federal charges related to advance fee fraud where he posed as a cash-laden South African diplomat and email phishing scams that drained bank accounts.
According to the Tennessee charges, University of Tennessee employees went to officials after someone had filed tax returns in their names. In one case, an employee identified as “T.R.” received a $10,043 adjustment to his 2013 return and was flagged for further review despite the fact the fact he had yet to file his 2013 return. A second UT employee had his 2013 return rejected because someone else had already filed it.
In all, the IRS’s Scheme Development Center found 223 fraudulent tax claims totaling more than $1.6 million in the names of UT workers.
All of the returns listed the same $42,800 salary with the same $9,473 refund and the same filing status. The amounts didn’t match the W-2 information the university had supplied to the IRS for the employees.
The fake claims had common email addresses, IP addresses and were sent in similar time frames. The refunds were deposited into prepaid debit cards purchased in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana.
The University of Northern Iowa breach involved some 174 workers who reported their 2013 tax returns were rejected because someone already filed under their identity. Debit cards were also used in the scam, according to court records.
For investigators in the college cases, the break came when agents looking into the phishing and advance fee fraud crimes came across Oretekor, searched his storage locker in Ellenwood, Ga., and found three computers.
On the computers were personal information, names, Social Security numbers and birthdays of a number of UNI and UT employees. On a computer, investigators also found T.R.’s information and a prepaid debit card routing number linked to the fake return in T.R.’s name. Another routing number was linked to a card associated with the fraudulent return filed in the name of J.B., another University of Tennessee employee, court records state.
In January, federal prosecutors in Iowa filed theft of government property and identity theft charges on Oretekor, alleging he swiped $9,850 by filing a tax return in the name of an Iowa resident identified as “R.A.” That case is pending.