Monday, June 18 , 2018, 7:34 am | Fair 55º


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Santa Barbara Man Pleads Guilty to Identity Theft

A Santa Barbara man has pleaded guilty to 17 felony counts of identity theft from 2009 and 2010 and will be sentenced to more than five years in jail as a result, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Imoukhuede Ehimika, 28, pleaded guilty Friday to 17 felony counts of identity theft and four other felony offenses, including grand theft, commercial burglary and money laundering, and a special allegation of causing losses exceeding $200,000, according to a statement from the DA’s Office.

Prosecuting attorney Anthony Davis said Ehimika took part in an elaborate scheme to defraud victims of their personal identifying information and ultimately their money starting in late 2009, and the fraudulent activity lasted through 2010 when he was caught.

Ehimika would receive basic bank information from an out-of-state source, related to bank customers residing in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties — specifically those who had a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, with their bank, the statement said.

Ehimika then went to the homes of the victims, stole personal mail from their mailboxes and accessed the victims’ personal computers through unsecured wireless networks, “all for the purpose of obtaining Social Security numbers, birth dates, driver’s license numbers and other pieces of personal identifying information,” the statement said.

Fraudulent checking accounts were set up in the name of each victim, directly linked to each victim’s HELOC, complete with debit cards and checks, to which Ehimika transferred huge sums of money from the HELOCs.

“He used the fraudulent debit cards to purchase large money orders at Southern California Walmart stores, which were then sent back to the out-of-state source of the original basic banking information,” according to the statement from the DA’s Office. “Ehimika also used the debit cards to pay for some of his own personal expenses.”

One of the victims contacted the bank about the activity on his HELOC account, and he also reached out to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

An extensive investigation by sheriff’s detectives led to the discovery of numerous other victims, with thousands of pieces of mail, financial documents and handwritten notes recovered from Ehimika’s residence.

Ehimika was arrested in December 2010 and subsequently charged with 67 counts of identity theft, grand theft, forgery, commercial burglary, money laundering and an enhancement for causing losses in excess of $200,000.

He is expected to be sentenced later this year to five years and eight months in prison, along with an order to pay restitution of roughly $160,000.

“Let this be another reminder to everyone in our community to continue to be vigilant in protecting your identity and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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