Obinwanne Okeke, the 31-year-old Nigerian held by American authorities for alleged fraud, entered a plea of not guilty to two counts of wire and computer fraud at his first hearing on Monday.
The presiding judge at the Newport News, Virginia, federal courthouse, declared the case as “complex,” but said Mr Okeke should be remanded in prison until February 18, 2020 when the trial would continue. He appeared in court at about 2 p.m. and waived his right to a speedy trial.
The appearance came a week after a federal grand jury examined the evidence gathered by the F.B.I. and presented by the United States Department of Justice and found Mr Okeke guilty as charged and recommended him for trial.
Upon conviction, the jury also said Mr Okeke should be made to forfeit at least $11 million in asset and an emerald shaped diamond engagement ring found on him when he was first arrested by federal agents as he was about leaving the U.S. on August 6.
The Monday’s appearance marked the commencement of Mr Okeke’s criminal trial since he was arrested and remanded in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service more than a month ago.
He had made previous appearances before separate judges for preliminary hearings in his bail applications — all of which were declined.
Mr Okeke, known in Nigeria as ‘millionaire entrepreneur’ Invictus Obi, was accused by the F.B.I. of orchestrating the theft of $11 million from a foreign subsidiary of American heavy equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar.