One Nigerian young man by name, Olufolajimi Abegunde has spent three years of his six-and-a-half-year sentence for money laundering in American jails, but the educated and entrepreneurial young man maintains that his arrest was based solely on the fact that he is black and a Nigerian, not on any evidence. In a telephone conversation with Encounter from his jail cell, Abegunde, also known as LJ, said that a review of his case by the US Justice Department would expose a clear case of bias and racism against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and the trial judge. Several attempts to have his case listed for review have failed, he claims since no one seems interested in hearing his appeal.
Abegunde told Encounter that when he was granted a visa to study in the United States, he never thought that four years later, he would be imprisoned for an offense he did not commit.
Trip to the United States
“I came to the United States in 2014,” Abegunde said, describing his trip from Nigeria to the United States and his struggle to make a life in the nation. In Texas, I attended a well-regarded institution. In 2016, I received a master’s degree in business administration.
“In Atlanta, Georgia, I worked for a company named Cock Automotive. The business is a major marketing and automobile conglomerate. As an interim marketing manager, I worked there. Following graduation, I launched LJ Williams, an international money transfers, currencies exchange, and remittances broking service. Our company was registered with the Nigerian Central Bank, which was a lengthy procedure. The Chartered Department of Banking and Finance, as well as the Central Bank of Canada, licensed and registered us. Obtaining these licenses was likewise a lengthy procedure. The requirement was time-consuming, demanding, and necessitated an FBI background check. Until the incident arose, I was running a respectable business.
Abegunde’s claimed offense, as told by the court
According to court documents obtained by Encounter, Abegunde’s troubles began in August 2016 when his longtime buddy Ayodeji Ojo, together with his pregnant wife and baby daughter, traveled to the United States from Nigeria. Abegunde hosted Ojo and his family in his house in Atlanta, Georgia. In an interview with security personnel, Ojo said that at the time of the visit, he had a perfectly valid check from Bank of America for $26,900. Ojo stated he intended to cash the cheque and use the money for expenditures linked to his family’s vacation, including medical bills for his pregnant wife.
According to Ojo, after being unsuccessful in cashing the check at various Bank of America locations owing to the check’s unusually big size, a Bank of America banker suggested he create a new bank account with another bank and wait for the check to clear before the monies became accessible to him.
Ojo claimed he went with Wells Fargo Bank, where he was informed he needed to give a legitimate identity document as well as communication information in the form of a US mailing address and a US cell phone number. “I advised the Wells Fargo banker that I was a guest in the US and did not have a US postal address or a US mobile phone number,” Ojo said in court. After inquiring, the banker agreed that I may create the account using Abegunde’s address and phone number.”
The bank account was created on August 29, 2016, according to court papers, and Ojo was able to access the monies two days later without difficulty. ‘ According to the investigation, Ojo and his family returned to Lagos, Nigeria on September 16, 2016, via Amsterdam, Netherlands, flying with Air France flight no. KL0587 Resa, operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, after a three-week stay in the United States that included staying in Abegunde’s home and traveling to other states.
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According to Ojo, he needed to convert some Nigerian Naira cash for US Dollar currency around the first week of October 2016. As a result, he contacted an unofficial dealer, Leke Adenuga, who, after agreeing on an exchange rate, asked Ojo to supply his US bank account in order to transfer the agreed-upon US Dollar sum of $9,000. The transaction was completed, and Ojo got the $9,000 that he had given Leke Adenuga in his Wells Fargo Bank account.
According to court records, on October 11, 2016, one month after Ojo left the United States; two months after Ojo opened the Wells Fargo Bank account; and two months after Ojo accessed the proceeds of the wholly legitimate $26,900 check, Brian Ancona, a Wells Fargo Bank investigator, called Abegunde on his mobile phone, the same mobile phone number Ojo had used to open Ojo’s Wells Fargo Bank account, stating that a certain Luis Ramos Alonso According to court documents, Abegunde informed Ancona that the account owner was in Nigeria and sought to link Ancona with Ojo via a three-way conversation. The endeavor, however, was in vain. Ojo ultimately contacted Abegunde back, and after Abegunde relayed Ancona’s urgent message about the reversal, Ojo agreed and authorized the $9,000 deposit reversal right away. When Ancona contacted Abegunde back, Abegunde informed him of Ojo’s approval of the reversal, and Ancona expressed his thanks for Abegunde’s assistance in securing the reversal.’
An odd allegation
Abegunde described his prosecution for permitting a buddy to use his address and phone number as the oddest thing that has ever occurred to him in an interview with Encounter. “The transcripts of my case’s sessions are all available on the court’s website,” he stated. In all of the records, there is no response to the issue of why I was prosecuted. They have been unable to provide me with any information as to why I am being charged.
“I am categorically stating that I am being punished because I am a black guy in America who is also a Nigerian. There is no proof that I was involved in any criminal activity. The original charge against me was that I allowed a buddy to use my residential address and phone number despite the fact that he did not live in the United States and did not have a US address or phone number. That is the subject of the indictment.
“At the trial, they were questioned if it was unlawful to give a friend permission to create a bank account using your address and phone number, and they responded it was not. So I can’t disclose why I’m in prison since it isn’t a crime.
I was detained and insulted.
“On February 7, 2018, I was arrested.” I was unfairly and unjustly condemned to 78 months in prison for my heroic deed of allowing a long-time old friend to use my home and phone information to create a bank account.
“In all of my case’s documentation, there is still nothing to demonstrate that I committed any crime.” There is no evidence that what I did was incorrect.
“On February 7, 2018, another Nigerian acquaintance paid me a visit in Atlanta, Georgia. We had planned a trip to the Dominican Republic but had to cancel owing to unforeseen circumstances. We went to the airport that morning to alter our flight because it was leaving that morning. Some guys approached me and arrested me as soon as we finished changing flights and going out of the airport. They humiliated me in front of the entire airport. “You have the incorrect person, it can’t be me, I have no ties to crime,” I continued telling them. And then they pulled out an arrest warrant, and I saw my name on it. I also discovered that I had been charged with a crime in Tennessee.
“I was charged with conspiracy to launder money.” I’m not sure how they came up with this. I’m still perplexed by it. I opted to fight for my right, to take my case to trial; I was given a preview that would have set me free years ago, but I chose to fight for my right because I know I am innocent.”
Accuses bias toward FBI, Judge
Abegunde said that the US court system was complicit in racial beliefs. “This is what I’d like the public to know,” he stated. There is an elephant in the room, which is referred to as a large elephant in the room. People assume that in order for the US government or the FBI to imprison or prosecute you, you must have committed a crime. In my situation, all of the evidence points to the contrary. In the United States, racial minorities, particularly black people, face a criminal justice system. In the United States, if you are black, you are a target for the American criminal system.
“People are unaware that the system is unfair, corrupt, stupefied, and rotting. People simply assume that since this man is in prison, he must have done something bad. But I’m pleading with everyone to look at the facts in my situation. Take a look at the transcripts and indictment in my case. I can promise you that I have committed no crime, yet I have been sentenced to 78 months in prison for nothing.
Plea for help
“I need the public to focus the spotlight on my situation,” Abegunde stated, pleading for a reconsideration of his case. I shall be removed quickly if the authorities, President Joe Biden, and the Federal Attorney-General of the United States are informed of my situation and it is investigated. I can tell you that the criminal prosecutors and FBI officers who put me in this situation will face consequences. All I need is for attention to be given to my case so that I can receive justice and the perpetrators of this injustice can be held accountable. That is my message to everybody who is listening.”
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