INDIANAPOLIS — Two former Indiana correctional officers have been indicted on federal charges for stealing the identities of unsuspecting inmates to open fraudulent bank accounts and then creating visas, passports and driver licenses.
The men, both of Muncie, allegedly used the bank accounts to funnel money to people living overseas, according to a federal indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana.
Both men, Lawrence Onyesonwu, 33, and Martins Chidiobi, 29, previously worked at the New Castle Correctional Facility, which is operated by a private GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla.
The private company hired Onyesonwu in 2014 and Chidiobi was hired in 2018. Both were fired Feb. 21 of this year.
The men have been charged with federal counts of bank fraud; aggravated identity theft; forgery or the false use of a passport; and fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents. Both men also face charges in Henry County.
Police were alerted in January by a Citizens State Bank representative in New Castle that an account was opened in the name of an inmate. As officers watched, Onyesonwu showed up at the bank and offered police a Republic of Liberia passport with an inmate’s name on it.
Working as a prison transportation officer, Onyesonwu had access to inmates’ personal information including dates of birth and Social Security numbers, the indictment states. After setting up the accounts, the two allegedly used the accounts for wire transfers, withdrawals and outgoing international wire transfers.
Chidibo told police he was directed by Onyesonwu to open accounts, according to the indictment. Chidiobi said Onyesonwu had someone in Nigeria produce fake documents and send them back.
The men used the phony passports to open bank accounts. Other accounts were opened with Ghana and China passports.
In one case, the men received 15 money orders totaling more than $12,400. Using that same account, they received 16 cash deposits totaling over $44,2000.
In total, Onyesonwu made 50 remittances totaling over $70,000 that went to seven individuals living in Nigeria.
In another case, someone using an inmate’s name went to Citizens Bank in Pendleton and attempted to withdraw $6,2000 to purchase a vehicle. However, employees at the bank wouldn’t release the funds without proper identification.