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2 Maryland Men Charged With Stealing $8M In Disaster Aid Funds

GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ) -- Two Maryland men are facing federal indictment for their roles in a scheme that allegedly stole government benefits, including more than $8 million, in federal emergency assistance.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging John Irogho, 38, of Upper Marlboro, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and charging Irogho and Odinaka Ekeocha, 33, of Laurel, for conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain federal benefits.

According to the two-count indictment, from 2018 through 2018, Irogho and several co-conspirators purchased hundreds of Green Dot debit cards- which co-conspirators then registered with Green Dot using stolen personal information of identity theft victims from across the U.S.

According to the indictment, the Federal Emergency Management System -- who was responsible for providing emergency benefits for damage to victims who were affected by national emergency disasters -- paid at least $8 million in amounts of $500 per claim to the debit cards bought by Irogho and his co-conspirators.

In addition to filing false disaster assistance claims with FEMA, the indictment alleges that co-conspirators also filed false claims online for Social Security benefits, for IRS tax refunds, and for Department of Labor unemployment and disability benefits using stolen identities.

If convicted, Irogho faces a max of 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Irogho and Ekeocha each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering.

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