Celebrated Nigerian entrepreneur and a Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 honoree Obinwanne Okeke has pleaded guilty to computer and wire fraud in an American court.
He made the plea on Thursday at the Norfolk Magistrate Court Room 2 of the United States District Court for Eastern District of Virginia.
He had earlier pleaded not guilty. Okeke, arrested in the United States August 2019, in a court ruling on Thursday pleaded guilty of the $11 million (N4.2 billion) computer-based fraud between 2015 and 2019.
The judge, Robert Krask, on Thursday certified the guilty plea to clear the paths for Okeke’s sentencing and could be sentenced to 20 years in an American jail, PremiumTimes reported.
The next hearing for the case has been fixed to October 22, 2020.
United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation said Okeke and at least six other persons were involved in the crimes.
“There is a probable cause to believe Okeke has conspired with several individuals to access computers without authorisation, and using such access to cause the fraudulent wire transfer of funds,” FBI’s special agent Marshall Ward said in an affidavit he deposed to before Justice Lawrence Leonard, in Norfolk, Virginia, on August 2.
The affidavit also sought a warrant to arrest Okeke who was in the United States at the time.
In his affidavit, Special Agent Ward said illicit financial transactions were traced to a Gmail account believed to be owned by Okeke. Those transactions, he said, and conspiratorial communications with, at least six other emails, were carried out between 2016 and 2019.
Okeke, the founder of Invictus Group, has a degree in International Studies and Forensic Criminology and Masters of International Relations and Counter-Terrorism Studies from Monash University in Australia, according to his official profile.
Okeke was named on the Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 For 2016 and was featured on the magazine’s June 2016 cover. A year later, CNBCA named Okeke as a finalist for Young Business Leader of the Year (West Africa).
He was featured regularly in Nigerian and international media. Okeke also earned high praises from Nigerian politicians.
His Invictus Group claims to have investments in oil and gas, construction, energy solutions, technology and agriculture.