Man faces 20 years in prison for COVID-19 vaccine fraud scheme

Odunayo Oluwalade of Maryland created fake Moderna website to lure customers.

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Department of Justice

(Wikipedia)

A man is facing up to two decades behind bars after admitting a fraud that involved a fake website purporting to belong to pharma giant Moderna.

Odunayo Oluwalade, 25, of Windsor Mill, a Baltimore suburb, entered a guilty plea for his role in the vaccine fraud on Friday. He faces up to 20 years in prison but a sentencing date hasn’t been set, the Department of Justice said in a press release.

Oluwalade pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud conspiracy for his role in a COVID-19 vaccine fraud scheme, after he allegedly worked with two others on securing a bank account for sales from a fake Moderna website.

The duplicate site was hosted at modernatx.shop, according to a federal complaint unsealed in February when Oluwalade and his two alleged co-conspirators were first arrested. The fake site used “the logo, markings, colors and texts” of the real site, investigators said in an affidavit unsealed in February.

“Oluwalade admitted that he knew the bank account would be used for a fraud scheme, but was not aware of the specifics of the scheme,” prosecutors said. “The scheme called for Oluwalade to be compensated for his role in obtaining bank accounts for use in the scheme.”

On Nov. 16, 2020, a co-conspirator told Oluwalade he knew someone who would let them use his account at Navy Federal Credit Union.

On Jan. 11, an undercover agent with Homeland Security Investigations contacted administrators of the site and exchanged several emails to arrange a sale of 200 vaccines at $30 per dose. The agent was instructed to send money to the Navy Federal Credit Union account, with 50% due up front and the other half due at delivery, prosecutors said.

Four days later, agents seized the domain and executed a series of search warrants, including one on the home of the man with the Navy Federal Credit Union account.

Agents used the man’s phone to text Oluwalade, “Yo where u want me send the bread?”

According to prosecutors, Oluwalade replied, “Yea send me some thru zelle and some through cash app.”

Oluwalade provided his Cash App username and agents sent a transfer, prosecutors said.

Oluwalade’s alleged co-conspirators are his cousin, Olikatan Oluwalade, 22; and Kelly Lamont Williams, 22.

“As the public seeks vaccines to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19, fraudsters are waiting to take advantage of their desperation,” James R. Mancuso, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Baltimore, said in a statement at the time.

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