A man from Maryland has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud conspiracy after authorities said he participated in a scheme that attempted to sell COVID-19 vaccines.
Odunayo Oluwalade, a 25-year-old man from Windsor Mill, Md., Faces up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty on Friday, according to the US Department of Justice. He and two other men were arrested in February for involvement in the fraud, which involved posing as Moderna and selling COVID-19 vaccines.
The program consisted of the creation by the group of the website “Modernatx.shop”, similar to the real domian of the company “Modernatx.com”. The website also included the use of the company’s logos, colors and branding.
While Moderna’s actual website lists how people can get the vaccine, the bogus website included a link that said, “You may be able to buy a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of time,” as well as a link to “contact us”, according to the plea agreement.
The scheme was halted after an undercover Homeland Security agent contacted a number listed on the bogus website. Within hours of logging in to the number for the first time, the agent received an invoice from the email “firstname.lastname@example.org” for 200 doses of the vaccine, which cost $ 30 each.
The agent was ordered to pay into a bank account belonging to one of the co-conspirators, which investigators seized a few days later, along with the website. Using a phone from the co-conspirators, investigators texted Oluwalade saying, “Where do you want me to send the bread?” To which Oluwalade said yes and requested that it be sent via Zelle and Cash App. Oluwalade then gave his Zelle and Cash App account information to investigators, according to his plea.
Oluwalade admitted that he knew a bank account would be used for the program, but was unsure how it would work. He added that he would be compensated for obtaining bank accounts for the program. Oluwalade has yet to be convicted by a judge.
“As the public searches for vaccines to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19, scammers wait to take advantage of their desperation. We want to remind the public to be extremely careful online, especially when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and protective gear, ”said James R. Mancuso, Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore Homeland Security Division, when arrested in February.
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