An American based Nigerian citizen, Mr. Olufolajimi Abegunde is crying out to American citizens, human right activists and lawyers in Nigeria and round the world, to rescue him from the unfair travails to which he has been subjected to, by the United States (US), Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal for an offense he did not commit.
Mr. Abegunde, a resident of Atlanta, Georgia says despite the many travesties suffered,he still expresses confidence in the US Justice System given its traditional strict adherence to the rule of law and due process, sent this Save Our Soul (SOS)appeals to the world in a release he made available to newsmen recently.
He refuted and rejected the verdicts passed on him by both the District Court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal as travesties of justice.
”These travesties range from the worst and most egregious forms of abuse of power or privilege by judicial officers. These abuses also involved egregious forms of overreach by government officials and the most draconian forms of prosecutorial misconduct, to significantly and preposterous actions at both the District and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal” he condemned the convictions thus.
The offenses for which he was initially indicted and brought to court were wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.
But probably due to lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute him for these offenses, the prosecutors brought a superceding indictment on marriage fraud conspiracy, an offense not connected to the original charges for which he was indicted and prosecuted on. According to views expressed by many human right activists and lawyers interviewed by our reporter, this is against due process and deprived Abegunde his right to a fair trial.
” According to rule 8 of the federal rules of criminal procedure as well as Sixth Circuit precedent, offenses can only be joined if they of the same or similar character, where there is a logical relationship between the offenses and if there is overlapping evidence with regard the joined offenses. United States courts have also ruled severally, that for joinder of offenses to be proper, the offenses must have occurred in the same location”
The superseding indictment clearly states that the marriage was entered into in North Carolina, also there is no logical relationship or overlapping evidence regarding the joined offenses.
”It was a universal rule which courts any where in the world must comply with” One of the barristers who agreed to speak with our reporter on condition of anonymity said.
These extant rules, however in the case of Abegunde were observed more in breach than in conformity by both the District and Appeal Court that tried Abegunde.
The marriage affairs in which he was engaged with his spouse at the Eastern District of North Carolina replaced the aggravated identity theft charge, for which there was absolutely no evidence.
He was tried and found guilty on all the offenses charged and was sentenced to a 78-month jail term by the District Court. He however appealed the verdicts at the upper court, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal for insufficiency of evidence, lack of venue and legal propriety of joining an unrelated offense among other challenges.
He also challenged his 78 months sentence, believing he was not given a fair trial at the District Court.The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal however upheld the verdicts of the District Court.
John Keith Perry, one of Abegunde’s attorney told Newsweek Magazine that
“I feel that my client might have been guilty of relaxing operating procedures and security provisions for his fledgling foreign remittance business, but he had no desire to engage in any conspiracy to defraud,”
Folajimi who is presently being held at the Reeves Detention Facility in the state of Texas, America is of a strong view that a miscarriage of justice that took place at the District Court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal, which runs against the grain of values America stands for, and for which it is known in the world.
The burden of proof according to U.S law he adds issues on prosecutors and not the accused. This must come with strong evidence that must be empirical to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt(it may be surprising to learn that in America, accused can be convicted on circumstantial evidence alone).
In Abegunde’s case, no witness testified that Abegunde engaged in any kind of financial fraud “The government’s witness admittedly could not pinpoint the original source of the funds, other than one $9000 transfer that occurred in October 2016” also, the superseding indictment states that the account that received the $9000 was not under Abegunde’s control. As a matter of fact, He was convicted on facts totally unrelated to the fraud that took place in Western district of Tennessee, as the government introduced legitimate business transactions as evidence.
Abegunde still believes he will get justice which is the reason he is appealing to people and human right organizations all over the world to come to his aid.
He was arrested on February 7, 2018, at an airport in Atlanta, Georgia where he went to change the flight dates for an already scheduled flight, to his surprise and shock, he was confronted with an indictment that charged him with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft at the Western District of Tennessee, a location Abegunde has claimed to have no known connection with.
Curiously the initial indictment didn’t contain any allegation of wrong doing or an offense by Abegunde.
He is a proprietor of a Money Service Business (MSB), that is duly licensed, registered and incorporated as ”FJ Williams Inc” meaning that he complied with all extant regulatory requirements to run a money service business in the state of Georgia in particular, and in the United States in general (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), US Department of Treasury, Georgia Department of Banking and Finance and the regulatory rules of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Abegunde transacts in international money remittances and currency exchanges to help people to remit money back home in Nigeria and provide scarce foreign currencies for those who need them home and abroad.
Around August 2016, his long time friend, Ayodele Ojo visited America with his family. They were hosted by Abegunde in his house in Atlanta, Georgia since they were not residents of America unlike Abegunde who lives in US.
Ayodele Ojo however came to America with a cheque which he could not cash at several banks. He was advised by a banker at one of the several banks to open a new bank account into which he would deposit the cheque and get the value of the amount.
He opened the new bank account with Wells Fargo Bank but because he didn’t have a US mailing address and phone number which were requirements for opening new bank account in US, he used those of his friend, Olufolajimi Abegunde.
Around October 11, 2016, two months after Ojo had departed America, Abegunde received a phone call from Mr. Brain Ancona, an investigator from Wells Fargo Bank who informed Abegunde that one Ramos Alonso came to the bank to request for reversal of $9000 he claimed he mistakenly deposited into Ojo’s account.
Around March 15, 2017, Abegunde received Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) agents at his residence, who came looking for Mr. Ojo. He was asked series of questions to which he provided answers innocently including issues of fraud which he condemned in strong terms. Shockingly, one of the FBI agents, Tyson Fowler asked Abegunde the racially charged question “why do you Nigerians like defrauding us Americans.”
During this wide-ranging conversation, Abegunde told the FBI agents that MSB ‘s are not under legal obligation to know or verify sources of its customers’ funds.
He reiterated that because of this, MSB would not be liable for any money that was criminally obtained by his clients if the MSB did not know the source of the funds.
This events which do not connect Abegunde in any way, manner, shape or form to the fraud that occurred in the Western District of Tennessee in July 2015, served as the basis for Abegunde’s indictment on wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.
With the lack of evidence linking Abegunde to the charged offenses, Abegunde views his travails as an orchestrated case of ethnic and racial scapegoating of an innocent Nigerian.
Attempt to reach the prosecutors did not yield positive result as they had not responded to us as at the time of filing this report.