In United States v. Ezenwa, No. 21-20609 (5th Cir. Apr. 24, 2023) (unpublished opinion) the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment, finding substantial evidence to support the convictions on all counts.
Maxwell Chibueze Ezenwa recently appealed his convictions for wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit both wire and mail fraud following a bench trial. Ezenwa challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting each count of conviction and the district court's proposed verdict form. However, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment, finding substantial evidence to support the convictions on all counts.
The Fifth Circuit held that there was sufficient evidence to support the wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud convictions based on the testimony of witnesses and documentary evidence. Ezenwa and his coconspirators used stolen credit card information to process fraudulent transactions through their businesses, Lace Warehouse and Lagos Island Cafe. Ezenwa also maintained fake invoices to substantiate fraudulent credit card charges when banks issued chargebacks.
The court also found sufficient evidence to support the mail fraud counts and the conspiracy conviction. Ezenwa and his coconspirator Onuorah convinced women to mail cashier's checks to CAPS Global, another of Ezenwa's companies, or to Ezenwa personally, under the guise of investing the victims' money. Instead, the funds were deposited into the bank accounts of CAPS Global and Onuorah's various businesses, and then wired to themselves or Nigerian companies.
On the mail fraud counts, the evidence was likewise sufficient. See United States v. Evans, 892 F.3d 692, 711 (5th Cir. 2018). Various men, whether or not personally known to Ezenwa, befriended women on dating websites and eventually convinced them, through promises of investment, to mail cashier's checks for substantial sums of money to CAPS Global- another of Ezenwa's companies-or to Ezenwa personally. Rather than invest the victims' money, Ezenwa and coconspirator Onuorah deposited their checks into the bank accounts of CAPS Global and Onuorah's various businesses and then wired the money to themselves or to Nigerian companies. Ezenwa also endorsed one of the victims' checks, for $30,000, to himself and cashed it. Cf. United States v. Freeman, 434 F.3d 369, 377 (5th Cir. 2005). This same evidence supports a conspiracy conviction. See United States v. Mann, 493 F.3d 484, 492 (5th Cir. 2007). That Ezenwa may not have known all other members of the conspiracy is of no moment. See United States v. Gonzalez, 907 F.3d 869, 874 (5th Cir. 2018). The existence of a mail fraud conspiracy involving Ezenwa could be sufficiently inferred from the concert of action in this case. See Sanders, 952 F.3d at 274.
United States v. Ezenwa, No. 21-20609 (5th Cir. Apr. 24, 2023)
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