Three men have been charged in an international stolen car and online identify theft scam after a two-year investigation by the San Diego FBI.
The outstanding suspects – Henry Addo, 34, of Ghana; Edmund Seshie, 42, of Ohio; and Abdul Rezak Shaib, 28, of New York – are accused buying U.S. vehicle using stolen identities and shipping them off to Ghana, Africa, for resale before the identity theft victims realized.
According to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed this week, the scheme involved at least 44 vehicles worth more than $500,000.
Investigators say Addo directed the scam from internet cafes in Ghana, using Seshie and Rezak Shaib to do work in the U.S.
The indictment says all three were involved in a Ghanaian practice called “Sakawa,” which combines modern internet-based fraud techniques with traditional African religious rituals. Addo allegedly motivated his co-conspirators by invoking Sakawa.
The trio is suspected of buying stolen credit cards and their corresponding driver’s licenses in bulk from a “carder” website in Singapore. Carders are people who buy, sell and trade credit card data taken from phishing websites or large store data breaches.
The indictment alleges that Addo would call U.S. car dealerships from Ghana, assuming the identity of the stolen card holders while negotiating the price of vehicles.
He then allegedly would send the illicit driver’s licenses and card information to the dealerships through a series of email accounts.
Using those same stolen credit cards, Addo is accused of paying for the cars’ transport to New Jersey, where they would be put into cargo containers and shipped to Africa.
The suspects allegedly repeated this process to purchase Toyota Camrys and Corollas – as well as the occasional Mercedes Benz C-Class sedans – to be sold in Ghana by a criminal organization.
However, the scheme raised red flags in San Diego when Addo tried to buy a 2009 Camry for about $17,000, according to the indictment.
The dealership reported the suspicious sale to the FBI, which opened an in-depth investigation into Addo, Seshie and Rezak Shaib.
“This case is notable in terms of its level of sophistication, its audacious methods and the callous disregard for victims,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in a statement.
The three suspects have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, criminal forfeiture, mail fraud and wire fraud.
None of the suspects have been taken into custody.