Two fraudsters from Baltimore who stole an estimated $8m from the US Government's FEMA program have been indicted in Federal Court there and charged with wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. John Irogho and Odinaka Ekeocha purchased GreenDot prepaid cards, and then stole the identities of victims of national disasters, to receive $500 payments from FEMA.
The defendants, using those stolen identities, also filed false claims for Social Security benefits and IRS tax refunds. The are facing a maximum penalty of 50 years' imprisonment.
Prepaid cards, as facilitators of financial crime, have been increasingly employed by white collar criminals, as they are not linked to a specific financial institution, and once charged up with stored value, can be redeemed anywhere, leaving no trail back to the fraudsters who are using them. They are a vehicle of choice for bulk cash smugglers and money launderers.