A Nigerian man, Uchenna Azubuike has been charged with 13 counts of identity fraud and held at the Thomas County Jail, Georgia. Immigration personnel have interviewed the suspect and officials with the Diplomatic Division of the U.S. attorney’s office at Macon will interview Azubuike here in mid-March.
Azubuike, 29, of 1000 Barone Ave., Atlanta was arrested after allegedly attempting to purchase two cell phones from a Vericon store using a fake passport of a woman in New York.
Employees at the Thomasville Verizon store, 13915 U.S. 19 South, became suspicious when someone using a New Jersey woman’s identification purchased phones in late February. Personnel contacted the woman and learned she had never been in Thomasville.
Verizon employees were on high alert when a man — later identified as Azubuike — entered the business two days later and purchased two iPhones valued at a total of $1,700. Police were notified.
The suspect, who had filled out paperwork, was waiting for completion of the phone transaction when police arrived. As soon as Azubuike saw police, he got in his vehicle, a 2010 Infiniti, and attempted to leave, said police detective Scott Newberry.
Azubuike refused to identify himself and was taken into custody. He was transported to the jail, where his identity was learned through fingerprints.
“He was using a fake passport of an individual from New York, New York, and was attempting to buy cell phones on the New York person’s Verizon account,” Newberry explained. “On him, we found the passport he was using. We learned his identity was a different name.”
The Infiniti was seized and searched at the Jail-Justice Center impound yard. Officers found 12 more passports and additional documents related to identification fraud in the car.
“They were different names and dates of birth, but his photo was on all of them,” said Capt. Maurice Holmes, commander of the Thomasville Police Department Criminal Investigations Division.
Also found in the vehicle were two iPhones purchased by Azubuike using another identification at a Valdosta Verizon store. An iPad purchased in Atlanta used yet another identification. An alert issued by Thomasville Police Department reached the federal level, including the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest.
“The feds have decided they want to adopt this case and take the case over.” Detective Newberry said.
The suspect will remain incarcerated in Thomasville until he is indicted by a federal grand jury. He will then be transported a federal facility.
“He’s of Nigerian descent,” Holmes added, pointing out a “long history” of fraudulent activity with a Nigerian connection.
The CID commander said that in his decades-long career in law enforcement, he has never seen an identity fraud case of this magnitude.
“When he uses an identification, he gets rid of it,” Newberry said.
Azubuike is believed to have bought cell phones from Kansas to North Carolina using fraudulent identifications. Officers said the suspect fraudulently obtained cell phones from Verizon and AT&T and had data transferred from phone to phone. It is believed some phones were being shipped overseas, where new service was obtained, and the phones were sold.
“There’s also a terrorist connection that could be involved with these phones. That’s why the feds are interested in it,” Holmes explained.
Police Chief Troy Rich said the Thomasville Verizon store staff is an important aspect of the case in that employees were able to stop the transaction and notify police.