Ijeoma Okoh, 32, Newark, New Jersey, a former employee of the Essex County Division of Welfare was sentenced for falsifying employment records in order to qualify for a $357,050 loan to buy a home in Newark, New Jersey. Okoh was sentenced to two years of probation by Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin in Essex County.
Okoh pleaded guilty on November 19, 2011, to an accusation charging her with issuing a false financial statement, a third-degree crime. Under the plea agreement, she is required to forfeit all interest in the house she purchased, which will revert to the mortgage lender. Okoh was also required to forfeit her job and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Under New Jersey law, there is a presumption against jail or prison time if a defendant is sentenced for a third-degree crime and has no prior felony record.
In pleading guilty, Okoh admitted that she submitted fraudulent documentation regarding her employment and salary in order to deceive Bank of America (BOA) into providing her with a $357,050 mortgage loan, which she used to purchase a property on Sixth Avenue, Newark, New Jersey.
The investigation revealed that in May 2009, Okoh filed a verification of employment form with BOA that correctly stated that she earned $47,562 as a family services worker for the Essex County Division of Welfare. However, the following day, Okoh filed a new, fraudulent form with BOA, purportedly signed by an actual deputy director in the Division of Welfare, indicating that Okoh‘s salary was $63,375 and that she was a family service supervisor. Okoh also submitted a fraudulent letter on county letterhead purportedly signed by the deputy director stating that the first form was incorrect because Okoh had recently been promoted and the county “systems” were not updated. The deputy director’s signature was forged on the documents. Okoh also filed a fraudulent direct deposit slip reflecting the higher salary. Okoh listed her own work number as the deputy director’s number on the forms, and when a detective called saying he was from BOA, she impersonated the deputy director and verified the false information.
Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced the sentence.
The case was investigated by the Essex County Inspector General’s Office and the Division of Criminal Justice. Deputy Attorney General Mark Ondris represented the state at the sentencing.
Attorney General Dow thanked Essex County Inspector General Dominick Scaglione and Investigator Michael McGaughran of his office for their investigation and referral. They were assisted by Investigator Edgar Gonzalez of the Essex County Division of Welfare Office of Fraud Prevention & Investigations, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jeanne Daumen of the Newark, N.J., Office of Inspector General – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Essex County Division of Welfare Office of the Director, and the Essex County Department of Citizen Services Office of the Director. Deputy Attorney General Ondris and Lt. Ken White handled the case for the Division of Criminal Justice.