Airline Baggage Handler Convicted In Card Scheme

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A baggage handler for United Airlines at Dulles International Airport pleaded guilty last week to stealing bulk quantities of credit card mailings from mail routed through the airport, then passing on the cards to confederates who used them to charge up as much as $4 million on area credit unions.

In a sophisticated scheme, Emmanuel Osho, a 49-year-old baggage supervisor at Dulles International, would steal as many envelopes as he could while the mail sat on the tarmac awaiting transfer to mail facilities and searched out those containing credit cards, then stuff them into a black duffel bag, according to authorities.

Osho, a Nigerian native, would then drive the cards to another Nigerian in Brooklyn, New York, Ademoloa Idowu, who would activate the cards with the bearers' Social Security numbers he had obtained. Idowu would then distribute the cards to so-called strikers, individuals who would pick the cards up at his home, travel to distant towns up and down the east coast, and use the cards to obtain cash advances at credit unions and banks.

Osho stole cards belonging to about 2,000 people which had been issued by 56 credit unions and seven card companies, authorities said. Asked why credit unions were the main victims of the scheme, Sam Dibbley, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Virginia, which prosecuted the case, said "most of the cards go through Dulles and there are a large number of credit unions in the area." Many of the cards were produced by Certegy Card Services, which has a large credit union customer base.

In one case cited, several Visa cards issued by Northern Piedmont FCU and New Horizon FCU were stolen at Dulles, then transported to Idowu in Brooklyn. He then sold the cards to a third party who distributed them to strikers, who used them to get cash advances, earning a 10% commission for the strikers.

Osho pleaded guilty last week to a single count of wire fraud. Idowo pleaded guilty last month for his role in the scheme and was sentenced to 63 months in prison. Both men will be deported after they complete their sentences.

U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said the case is the latest example of a federal crackdown on airport security in the wake of the terrorist hijackings of September 11, 2001.

"We have to pursue cases like this because we have to ensure that the airports are safe and secure," said McNulty, adding the cards case did not involve any allegations of terrorist ties.

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