Argued April 17, 2014.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 09 CR 365 -- Ronald A. Guzmá n, Judge.
For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Helene B. Greenwald, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL.
For OLUSOLA AROJOJOYE, Defendant - Appellant: Andrea Elizabeth Gambino, Attorney, GAMBINO & ASSOCIATES, Chicago, IL.
Before MANION, SYKES, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge .
Olusola Arojojoye participated in a multi-faceted fraudulent check-cashing operation involving his creation of fraudulent documents bearing the identities of people and fictitious businesses. After he was caught in the act, he was indicted by a grand jury on a dozen counts related to fraud. He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344 and one count of aggravated identify theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1). The district court imposed a below-Guidelines
sentence of 85 months' imprisonment on the bank fraud count and 24 months on the identity theft count, to be served consecutively for a total sentence of 109 months. On appeal, Arojojoye challenges his aggravated identity theft conviction and sentence. We affirm.
From January 2005 to May 2008, Arojojoye and seven co-defendants engaged in an identity theft and bank fraud operation that resulted in over a million dollars in losses to financial institutions and adversely impacted the people whose identities were stolen. To implement this operation, Arojojoye surreptitiously acquired vital information, including social security numbers, and manufactured false identification documents and created fictitious businesses. With these fraudulent documents, he opened mailboxes at commercial mail-receiving agencies. He then recruited co-defendants Kenneth Kormoi and Quintin Henderson to do the same. He also opened fraudulent merchant credit card accounts and bank accounts, and completed fraudulent transactions. To perpetuate the scheme, he bought valid credit card numbers from internet hackers and ran up fraudulent charges through these merchant accounts through credit card processing machines provided to him on the mistaken belief that he was operating legitimate businesses. In order to receive these payments (delivered to the fraudulently procured mailboxes) from the credit card companies who had provided him the machines, he was required to produce proof that his " businesses" provided goods or services, and so he created false invoices.
Another facet of this operation involved the theft of convenience checks--checks issued by credit card companies to their customers that disburse funds drawn from the customer's line of credit. Finally, the operation also involved the theft of actual checks. One of Arojojoye's co-defendants, who was gainfully employed by Navistar Financial Services Corporation, stole two checks payable to the Navistar Leasing Company in the total amount of $441,889.03. With the aid of the fraudulent documents created by Arojojoye, these real checks were negotiated through a fraudulently created account.
This criminal enterprise continued for over three years until Arojojoye was finally arrested after presenting a stolen credit card and fraudulent driver's license to purchase money orders and prepaid phone cards at a Wal-Mart in Illinois. An inventory search of his Mercedes produced voluminous evidence of fraud and identity theft. Law enforcement authorities eventually discovered that the scheme involved the creation of over fifteen fictitious businesses, caused the theft of dozens of personal identities, and resulted in substantial pecuniary loss to a number of financial institutions.
A. Procedural History
On July 9, 2009, a grand jury returned a forty-two-count indictment against Arojojoye and seven co-defendants. On April 4, 2011, Arojojoye pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1344 and to one count of aggravated identify theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1). The remaining charges were dismissed pursuant to the plea agreement.
In connection with his guilty plea, Arojojoye submitted a Plea Declaration whereby he acknowledged that he understood the charges and that the facts " establish[ed] his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." The Plea Declaration contained admissions that Arojojoye " participated in activities to defraud using fake IDs, bank accounts, merchant accounts, stolen identities and credit
card numbers." He also admitted that he created fraudulent documents for use by himself and others by getting names and information from the internet and by using computer applications to produce fraudulent business documents. He further admitted to paying co-defendants Henderson and Kormoi to open fraudulent mailboxes and to engage in other aspects of the conspiracy.
Following entry of his guilty plea, the Probation Office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report (" PSR" ). Using the November 2010 edition of the Sentencing Guidelines Manual, the Probation Office determined that Arojojoye's base offense level was 29 and that his criminal history placed him in category II. This resulted in an advisory guideline range of 97-121 months' imprisonment in connection with Count 20, the bank fraud conviction. Additionally, Count 36, the aggravated identity theft count, carried a mandatory two-year term of imprisonment that must be served consecutive to any other term of imprisonment imposed. 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), (b)(2).
The Probation Officer's calculation of Arojojoye's total offense level included: a sixteen-level increase, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(1)(I), based on a loss amount of $1,028,818; a four-level increase, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(2)(B), because the scheme involved at least 50 victims who had their means of identification used unlawfully and without authority; a two-level increase, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(9)(C), because the offense involved sophisticated means; and a three-level increase, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(b), because Arojojoye was a manager or supervisor and the criminal activity involved five or more participants or was otherwise extensive. The Probation Officer also recommended a three-level reduction in offense level, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a) and (b), because ...