LeFrak City tenant allegedly stole money, identities from residents

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

A tenant at an Elmhurst apartment complex has been charged with money laundering and identity theft involving other former and current residents.

According to District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Olawale Akinnawonu, 45, a tenant of the LeFrak City apartment complex, has been charged with stealing more than $100,000 between November 2011 and May 2013 after using the identities of dozens of residents to illegally open bank and credit card accounts in their names. He is being charged for allegedly stealing monthly rent checks from one of the apartment’s U.S. mailboxes. “Identity theft is especially exploitative when it violates the postal system and is committed against honest citizens by someone living in their midst,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Various complaints were filed to the 110th Precinct concerning rent checks being stolen, said Brown. The victims each said they had placed their rent checks in the secured mailbox but the checks never made it to the leasing companies managing the payments.

According to Brown, during the investigation, video surveillance allegedly shows the defendant using a key to open the mailbox for incoming mail and would use a stick to slip out departing mail through the mail slot of the U.S. mail outbox.

The defendant allegedly deposited the checks into different bank accounts, some of which included accounts he had opened in the name of LeFrak City tenants without their permission. He also allegedly opened credit card accounts in the name of other residents without their permission. The stolen checks were then used to pay the credit cards, which would create credit/overpayment in the name of whomever the card was in.

While impersonating the person whose name was on the card, Akinnawonu would get the credit card company to issue a check for overpayment which would be deposited into an account he controlled in the name of Samuel Mensah. He would then allegedly use the debit card for that account to take out money from ATMs and write out checks to himself and put them into his personal account.

Akinnawonu is awaiting arraignment on a 134-count indictment charge. He is being charged with one count of second-degree money laundering, 44 counts of first-degree identity theft, 10 counts of third-degree grand larceny, 60 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, six counts of second-degree identity theft, nine counts of fourth-degree grand larceny and four counts of petit larceny. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

The DA said he is “concerned that there may be more victims of the defendant’s alleged scheme” and asks tenants of the apartment complex to get a copy of their credit report to see if any accounts have been illegally opened in their name.

Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim, or knows someone who may have been a victim, is asked to contact the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau at 718-286-6673.