FARGO, North Dakota — A man convicted nearly five years ago and sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a massive credit card scheme was back in a North Dakota court recently to face two new charges related to the case — and answer a question about his true identity.
He went by the name Adekunle Olufemi Adetiloye when his lawyer told the court in 2011 that his client fled from his native Nigeria to Canada in 2005 to avoid persecution and threats of death for his sexual orientation and Christian faith. Adetiloye found the new way of life to be more difficult than he expected, his attorney said, and he was naively sucked into the scheme in order to survive. In one court document he filed himself, Adetiloye said he was ignorant of the American court system because he was not "legally trained as an attorney."
Turns out he might actually be a lawyer with a dozen years of living in the United States in his past, according to court documents.
Prosecutors say Adetiloye's real name might be Michael Adefemi Adeyemo, who lived in the U.S. from 1989 to 2001, worked for the U.S. Postal Service for three years and had been accepted into two American law schools based on a law degree from Nigeria, documents show. He allegedly left for Canada after he was indicted in California in 2001 for a fraud scheme involving identity theft and illegal access devices.
The first question U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal asked Adetiloye on Wednesday turned out to be the most important one.
"Sir, can you tell me your name please?" Senechal asked.
"Can I consult with my lawyer, your honor?" he replied.
He chatted with attorney Laurel Moeckel for about a couple of minutes before Moeckel told the court her client was objecting to its jurisdiction. Senechal eventually told the defendant that there is "no admission" of guilt just by stating his name.
"Adekunle Olufemi Adetiloye," he said, adding that he is 45 years old.
Moeckel and U.S. Attorney Chris Myers declined to comment on the new proceedings, which are scheduled for a March 15 trial. Adetiloye has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Investigators say the fraud case was one of the largest credit card schemes in U.S. history and that Adetiloye was the mastermind behind a plot to steal the identities of 38,000 people and bilk dozens of banks out of millions of dollars.
Adetiloye was convicted of incorporating two different companies that claimed to be debt collection companies. He gained access to commercial data providers — including large-scale outfits LexisNexis and ChoicePoint that only allow access to law enforcement, financial services and debt collection companies
He became a suspect when authorities tried to find out how someone who was unemployed and receiving welfare was living lavishly, complete with a Range Rover vehicle, extended trips to England and an expensive condominium. The case wound up in North Dakota because U.S. Bank, one of the victims, is based in Fargo.