A federal grand jury in the United States has indicted Obinwanne Okeke for $11 million fraud.
The decision affirmed the investigation of the U.S. Department of Justice, conducted by the F.B.I, and now set the stage for commencement of criminal trial.
Besides the indictment, the jury also recommended that Mr Okeke be made to forfeit at least $11 million in cash and asset or both if convicted.
An emerald cut engagement ring found on him when he was arrested should also be forfeited, the jury ruled.
Mr Okeke, 31, was arrested on August 6 in the U.S. and slammed with two counts of computer and wire fraud. He was subsequently taken before a court and remanded in prison following preliminary hearings.
While he remained in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, a grand jury was set up to look into the allegations against him.
The jury returned on September 9 with an indictment of Mr Okeke for the $11 million fraud.
A grand jury typically consists of 23 people who may not necessarily be lawyers or have law enforcement backgrounds.
The F.B.I. had detailed the fraud in its criminal affidavit against Mr Okeke as involving a subsidiary of heavy equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar. The business email compromise (BEC) fraud was carried out in 2018, American authorities said.
The jury agreed with the F.B.I. findings that Mr Okeke, better known in Nigeria as ‘businessman’ Invictus Obi, was the individual who committed the fraud alongside others.
It was unclear whether Mr Okeke’s alleged accomplices have been identified or authorities have deliberately concealed their details because they are still at large.
With the indictment, Mr Okeke’s trial will now commence on September 16, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. Douglas Miller, a U.S. magistrate at a federal courthouse in Newport News, Virginia, has been assigned as the presiding judge in the criminal matter.
Mr Okeke, who faces up to 30 years if convicted, has named John Iweanoge, a Washington D.C. attorney of Nigerian origin, as his lead counsel. He would be expected to enter a plea during his September 16 appearance.
Mr Okeke, 31, had been widely celebrated in local and foreign media as a shining light amongst Nigerian youth.
He said he founded Invictus Group, which has business interests in real estate, oil and gas, renewable energy amongst others.
He had travelled to the U.S. apparently without a prior knowledge that he was being investigated by the F.B.I. and settled in Alexandria, Virginia, about 13 kilometres south of Washington D.C.