A Gary man is accused of defrauding the American Red Cross by claiming he was a Hurricane Harvey victim.
Olanrewaju A. Beyioku, 38, was charged Thursday in U.S. District Court with wire fraud on allegations he cashed $3,600 in federal disaster relief vouchers provided by the Red Cross in October 2017.
The humanitarian organization offered the funds through a one-time cash payment of $400 after Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, Texas, on Aug. 25, 2017, according to court records. The victim was provided a reference code, which could be redeemed for cash at Walmart locations.
After the program launched in September 2017, the Red Cross received reports nonvictims were claiming the funds, records state.
“The Red Cross has found over 3,300 reference codes that were fraudulently applied for via its website and used to obtain cash payments at Walmart stores,” records state. “The total loss to the Red Cross is over $1.3 million.”
Walmart security investigators determined 81 fraudulent transactions committed by two individuals at the Walmart in Hammond, records state. The fraud totaled $32,400.
After an investigation, federal authorities determined nine of the transaction were conducted by Beyioku. Beyioku was identified in a photo array as one of the thieves by a clerk at the Walmart, records state. Authorities also traced the ill-gotten money back to Beyioku's bank accounts.
Beyiouku was tied through police records to residences in Gary and Hammond, records state. He is also known as “Ake Nathan” and “Papa Smith Morgan.”