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    Sunday, March 26, 2023

    Nigerian citizen sentenced in phishing scheme that targeted Groton schools

    A Nigerian citizen who was living in Smyrna, Ga., was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in New Haven to approximately 10 months of imprisonment, time he had already served, for his role in a scheme to obtain the personal identifying information of school employees in Groton and elsewhere.

    Olukayode Ibrahim Lawal, who had entered the United States on a visitor's visa in November 2016, failed to depart as scheduled a month later. He is in custody of the U.S. Immigrations & Customs Enforcement and will be deported, according to the government.

    In March 2017, an employee of the Groton Public Schools received an email that appeared to be sent by another Groton school system employee. The email contained a request to send W-2 tax information for all employees of the school system. The recipient of the email responded by sending copies of the W-2 information for approximately 1,300 Groton Public Schools employees. 

    After the W-2 information was emailed, approximately 100 suspicious Forms 1040 were filed electronically with the IRS in the names of victims of the Groton phishing scheme. The 100 tax returns claimed refunds totaling $491,737. Approximately three of the returns were processed, and $23,543 in fraudulently obtained funds were electronically deposited into various bank accounts. The other returns were not processed because they were suspected of being fraudulent.

    A co-conspirator of Lawal sent personal identifying information, including names and Social Security numbers, of at least 10 employees to an email account that Lawal used. Lawal then sent the victims' personal identifying information to another co-conspirator.

    The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarala V. Nagala.

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