(ConservativeHub.com) – Sadly, there’s one thing you can usually count on — the worst of times bring out the worst in some people. Such was the case with a Maryland man who recently pleaded guilty to running an illegal online scheme involving COVID-19 vaccines.
On Friday, October 29, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland issued a press release announcing that Odunayo “Baba” Oluwalade pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges related to an alleged scheme to sell non-existent COVID-19 vaccines. Federal agents reportedly arrested the Windsor Mill man and two accomplices on February 11, 2021.
Per his guilty plea, Oluwalade conspired with his co-defendants to obtain a bank account to support their fraudulent scheme. He admitted to knowing ahead of time that the men would use the account as part of an illegal scam. However, he maintained he didn’t know any specific details.
According to court documents, Oluwalade’s accomplices replicated a website owned and operated by pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Moderna, Inc. to dupe unsuspecting victims into paying for vaccines. The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020.
The men set up a website at www.modernatx.shop, which closely resembled the design, markings, and color scheme of Moderna’s actual website at www.modernatx.com. The fake website’s landing page included text stating: “You may be able to buy a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of time,” accompanied by a “Contact Us” link.
A Homeland Security Investigations agent operating in an undercover capacity (UC) contacted a number listed on the fake website. The number replied a couple of hours later, requesting an email address.
After a series of emails, the agent received a $6,000 invoice for 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, with 50% payable in advance. The agent deposited $3,000 in the bank account set up by Oluwalade. Shortly afterward, government officials seized the fake website and executed a series of search warrants resulting in Oluwalade’s arrest and those of his accomplices.
Oluwalade faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence for his role in the scheme. US District Court Judge Stephanie Gallagher accepted Oluwalade’s guilty plea but hasn’t yet scheduled a day to sentence him.
You can protect yourself by arming yourself with information. Various government websites offer data on fraud and scam detection and prevention and how to report incidents if you think you or a loved one have fallen victim to a criminal scheme.
The FBI provides information on its website regarding detecting online scams at www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/internet-fraud
Similarly, the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office provides a list of ways to protect yourself against fake websites at www.attorneygeneral.nd.gov/consumer-resources/common-scams/fake-website-scams.
You can visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts to obtain information about avoiding and reporting scams.
You can also go to the USAGov website for information regarding reporting fraud and scams at www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds.
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