A federal grand jury in Austin has indicted three individuals, including 28-year-old Cimene Hamilton Onyeri of Houston, for their roles in fraud and racketeering schemes that involved the attempted capital murder of State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek in November of last year.
An 11-count indictment, unsealed in Austin today, charges Onyeri, 26-year-old Marcellus Antoine Burgin of Cypress, TX and 24-year-old Rasul Kareem Scott of Marrera, LA, with one count of conspiracy to participate in an enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and, one count of aggravated identity theft. Onyeri is also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud; an additional count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and six additional counts of aggravated identity theft.
The indictment alleges that from January 2012 to November 2015, Onyeri and others carried out various fraudulent schemes for financial gain in Austin, Houston, the state of Louisiana and surrounding areas. The racketeering enterprise is alleged to have engaged in mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, document fraud, access device fraud and money laundering as well as offenses involving murder.
According to the indictment, the defendants carried out a wire fraud scheme they used debit card readers, or “skimmers,” and cameras placed on ATMs to steal personal identification information (PII) from identity PIN numbers used by, unsuspecting individuals. The defendants then used the stolen PII and debit card PIN numbers to “cash out,” or deplete, those bank accounts.
The indictment also alleges that from December 2011 to November 2013, Onyeri and others carried out a a credit card skimming scheme whereby they captured unsuspecting individuals’ credit card information at various restaurants and retail stores. They would then transfer the stolen information onto gift cards to purchase retail items or orders which could then be sold or converted to cash.
The indictment further alleges that Onyeri and others were involved in a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) scheme. Onyeri and others used stolen PII to create and file fraudulent income tax returns seeking refunds. Once the refund checks were mailed, Onyeri and others would use the checks to open up bank accounts and then access the fraudulently obtained funds through cash or ATM withdrawals. The indictment also alleges that Onyeri bribed bank employees to create false bank accounts to facilitate access to the funds and greed to pay $1,500 to an individual who he believed was a U.S. Postal Letter Carrier in exchange for intercepting mailed income tax refund checks.
According to the indictment, when the existence of the criminal enterprise was threatened, the defendants responded with violence. The indictment alleges that on the night of November 6, 2015, the defendants attempted to murder State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek, whom Onyeri believed was going to sentence him to prison, by shooting Judge Kocurek while she sat in her car outside her home in Austin. As a result of the incident, Kocurek suffered serious bodily injury from multiple gunshots and resulting shrapnel.
Upon conviction, the defendants face up to life in federal prison for the RICO conspiracy charge; up to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud charge; and, a mandatory two years in federal prison for each aggravated identity theft charges.