GOLETA — A nine-month investigation by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s detectives resulted last month in the apprehension of a 26-year-old former UC Santa Barbara exchange student from Nigeria on multiple charges of identity theft.
As detailed by sheriff’s spokesman Drew Sugars, Imoukhuede Ohiwerei Ehimika was taken into custody at his Goleta residence pursuant to search and arrest warrants on Dec. 21, when he was booked into the county jail with bail set at $150,000.
“He made bail within 24 hours,” Sugars told the media. “Now it’s in the DA’s hands.”
According to Sugars, sheriff’s detectives began investigating a series of reported fraudulent Internet activity in April 2010. The victims were geographically clustered in the Goleta area just north of Santa Barbara’s city limits, and all reported similar unauthorized transfers of funds from personal bank accounts into an account of unknown origin.
“We believe the suspect cruised local neighborhoods and picked up unsecured wireless connections,” Sugars explained to the media, indicating the suspect transferred more than $150,000 to his own account and then purchased money orders with those funds.
“He used his computer skills to obtain critical personal information,” Sugars said, “and then used that information to transfer money into his own accounts.”
Sugars indicated that at least five local area residents have been currently identified as victims, and that sheriff’s detectives are asking any members of the public who have experienced unauthorized bank withdrawals to contact them at (805) 681-4150.