NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Two people pleaded guilty Monday to charges related to their roles in a fraud scheme involving “Mystery Shoppers.”
The department of justice said 47-year-old Christie Easter of Fort Worth, Texas, and 28-year-old Toheeb Odoffin of Chicago, each pleaded guilty.
According to court documents, in 2012 federal law enforcement began an investigation into an extensive scheme that operated nationally and internationally, stemming from Nigeria.
The investigation determined that participants in the scheme, including Easter and Odoffin, recruited individuals throughout the United States through email to serve as “Mystery Shoppers.”
The individuals would receive financial instruments, like a cashier’s check or Postal money order, to evaluate the services of certain money transmission services, including Western Union and Money Gram.
Once a “Mystery Shopper” responded to the email solicitation with interest, the conspirators would get personal identification information from the Mystery Shopper, which was then placed on the counterfeit cashier’s check or Postal money order.
The conspirators, including Easter and Odoffin, would then mail the Mystery Shoppers a counterfeit cashier’s check or Postal money order for the Mystery Shopper to negotiate at their own bank, keeping a portion of the payment for their services.
The Mystery Shopper would then wire the majority of the funds to conspirators or other recruited individuals who retrieved the transmitted funds and engaged in further distribution of the fraudulent proceeds.
Easter and Odoffin each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Each faces mandatory minimum of two years in prison, and a maximum penalty of 32 years in prison.