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Identity Theft Suspect Arrested on New Charges

Detectives say search of ex-UCSB student's home has linked him to new victims, violations

The suspect in a string of Santa Barbara-area identity thefts has been arrested on new charges as a result of the ongoing investigation, authorities said Saturday.

Imoukhuede Ohiwerei Ehimi
Imoukhuede Ohiwerei Ehimi

Imoukhuede Ohiwerei Ehimi, 26, a one-time UCSB student and native of Nigeria, was arrested in Fontana and will be extradited to Santa Barbara County, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Brad McVay, a department spokesman. His bail has been increased to $1 million, McVay said.

Ehimi was arrested last month after a nine-month investigation of alleged identity theft in Santa Barbara and Goleta. According to sheriff’s detectives, Ehimi used unsecured wireless Internet connections to access personal computers and obtain bank information to transfer money from the unsuspecting victims’ home-equity accounts. Detectives allege that Ehimi bilked several local victims of at least $156,000 in the scam.

On Dec. 21, detectives served a search and arrest warrant at Ehimi’s residence in the 200 block of Mathilda Drive, where he was taken into custody. He was booked into the County Jail on several identity theft charges but was released after posting $150,000 bail.

As a result of information developed from evidence seized during the search of Ehimi’s home, detectives have discovered additional violations and victims, McVay said.

Detectives began investigating the case in early April after a Santa Barbara area man reported that someone had used the Internet to transfer more than $5,000 from the victim’s legitimate bank account into a fraudulent bank account that recently had been opened under his name.

Over the next two months, detectives began working three more cases in which the victims, who lived in the Goleta/Santa Barbara area, reported similar crimes. In one case, authorities said, the suspect transferred $65,500 into a fraudulent account; in the two other cases, the suspect transferred $11,500 and $16,500. A fourth victim later reported that $58,000 had been fraudulently transferred from his account.

Detectives identified Ehimi as the suspect in September.

The investigation is continuing, McVay said. Anyone who has noticed improper withdrawals from home-equity accounts is asked to call 805.681.4150.

Click here for information about protecting yourself against identity theft.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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