Court reports detail scam investigation with Nigerian suspect

Court reports detail scam investigation with Nigerian suspect »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The suspect accused in a local Internet rental scam is now set to be in court next week on six felony charges, and reports filed in the case reveal more about the investigation.

A Bakersfield woman said she lost thousands of dollars in this scam, after answering an ad on Craigslist.

On July 1, Bakersfield police announced they'd arrested 28-year-old Tope Onosohare Jelugbo in connection with the scam. At that time, BPD officials told Eyewitness News that Jelugbo was a California State University Bakersfield student. Court reports just obtained by Eyewitness News outline the charges against Jelugbo and show he's originally from Nigeria.

Investigators said Jelugbo posed as a female student, posted the ad on Craigslist seeking to rent a room, and forged checks.

"Jelugbo created falsified checks on his computer from Cal State University Bakersfield, and forged the signature on the checks," an officer's report in the court file says. "He mailed the false checks to the victim and requested MoneyGrams be sent to him."

Kathy Rowland is the woman who answered the ad, and she's glad to see the case moving forward. She has a home near the CSUB campus, and she has rented it out to a student before.

Rowland said she spotted the ad on Craigslist in late May, and the potential renter identified herself as a woman from Vietnam planning to attend Cal State. The "student" said she only had one large check, which she would mail to Rowland, and asked the prospective landlady to keep enough to cover the room costs, and send back the remainder by MoneyGram. That person said she, or possibly he, needed the rest of the funds for expenses.

Rowland said the check was from CSUB, and she deposited it in her bank's ATM.

"The check cleared, and I sent them the remainder of the money," Rowland told Eyewitness News. The person framing themselves as a student then asked for a second refund via MoneyGram, and that's when Rowland started to get suspicious. She contacted CSUB and Bakersfield police and was told investigations were underway.

According to the case reports, Jelugbo is suspected of picking up the MoneyGram funds on May 31 and June 1 at a Vallarta Supermarket. Police have told Eyewitness News that officers got surveillance video of Jelugbo where he picked up the funds, and that video helped identify and locate him.

Officers then tracked Jelugbo to a central Bakersfield apartment. Eyewitness News went to that apartment on Thursday. No one answered the door, but it seemed someone inside moved the window blinds.

Rowland said she's out $2,745. That's because the check she deposited turned out to be bogus, and that's the amount she had sent off in MoneyGrams.

MoneyGram spokesman Drew Wilson told Eyewitness News his company is very concerned about cases like this.

"MoneyGram has an aggressive fraud prevention program in place, utilizing a blend of cutting-edge technology and human intervention to identify and prevent fraudulent transactions," he responded by email.

If consumers think they've been the victim of a scam involving a wire transfer through MoneyGram, the company said customers can call them at (800)MONEYGRAM (800-666-3947). The company also has a fraud prevention website.

Jelugbo faces six felony charges - two of second-degree burglary, two counts of forgery, a charge of possessing ID to commit forgery, and possession of blank checks.

Both BPD and CSUB officers investigated the case. University officials said they are referring all questions to city police, and said they could not release any information on Jelugbo's status as a student.

Jelugbo is now set to be in court on July 16. Police said while they know of one victim here, they believe this is a bigger case.

"We believe there are victims throughout the United States who've been victims of this scam," BPD spokeswoman Michaela Beard told Eyewitness News.

Rowland said she hopes all those victims can be compensated, and she hopes to get her money back somehow.

"I feel like I've been caught between the cracks her," Rowland said. "And I'm left holding the bag."