Restitution gap in credit card scheme case

Adekunle Adetiloye is shown in a photo provided by the Cass County, N.D., Jail. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO-Cass County Jail

FARGO, N.D. - Attorneys for a Canadian man convicted in what investigators said was one of the largest credit card schemes in U.S. history tediously denied Wednesday that he owes nearly $750,000 in restitution by challenging dozens of his alleged victims one-by-one in court.

Adekunle Adetiloye, 40, a native of Nigeria who was living in Toronto, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to 18 years in prison last month following a years-long investigation.

He was accused of stealing the identities of about 38,000 people and opening nearly 600 fraudulent bank accounts to bilk as much as $1.5 million from nearly two dozen banks and credit card companies.

The U.S. government is now trying to get some of the money back.

Federal prosecutors in North Dakota believe Adetiloye owes about $744,000, all but about $50,000 of it due to companies.

But public defender Richard Henderson said restitution should be set at about $110,000, and he spent more than an hour Wednesday naming off many of the 47 people and 22 companies on prosecutors' list of alleged victims — challenging each claim individually.

"No. 1 on the list is William Evans," Henderson said at the start of his list reading during Wednesday's restitution hearing. "We object to the claim of William Evans."

Among his complaints was a claim for $100,000 by LexisNexis for legal expenses, saying: "I have no idea what this legal expense is for."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase complained that Adetiloye's attorneys were nitpicking and told U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson that it "tries everyone's patience with overkill" for the government to answer all of Henderson's claims.

"To go through each every one of these would require at least a couple of days," Chase said.

The judge said he would review the evidence and didn't make any rulings Wednesday.

Credit card fraud investigators testified during Adetiloye's sentencing hearing that the fraud was one of the most complex cases they had ever seen. U.S. Bank held special training sessions on the case in hope of catching the culprits.

The case wound up in North Dakota because U.S. Bank's customer service centre in Fargo intercepted calls by Adetiloye and others.

The largest requests for restitution are about $248,000 by Discover, $230,000 by Citigroup and $163,000 by LexisNexis. The largest claim by an individual is more than $14,000.

Investigators began looking into Adetiloye's activities in 2007, after figuring out he was unemployed and receiving welfare yet living lavishly, complete with a Range Rover vehicle, extended trips to England and an expensive condominium.

Defence attorneys claimed during his sentencing that Adetiloye was a "mid-level player" who joined the operation after it began and did not mastermind the scheme.