The website looked similar to that of COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna. But it included a fraudulent message: “YOU MAY BE ABLE TO BUY A COVID-19 VACCINE AHEAD OF TIME.”
The site, which federal agents seized in January, was part of a scheme advertising access to COVID-19 inoculations at $30 a dose back when the life-saving shots were at their most scarce.
Investigators say a Baltimore County man, 25-year-old Odunayo “Baba” Oluwalade was in on the ruse. The Windsor Mill resident pleaded guilty to helping to find a bank account to use for the scam, alongside co-conspirators.
According to his plea, he was contacted on Nov. 13, 2020 and asked to obtain the bank account for a fraud scheme, in exchange for compensation. In the plea, Oluwalade alleges he did not know the nature of the scam.
Three days later, an alleged co-conspirator texted Oluwalade to say he’d found a Navy Federal Credit Union account they could use. For several days, he discussed the account details with his co-conspirators.
On Jan. 11, 2021, an undercover Homeland Security Investigations special agent contacted a number advertised on the fake website, “Modernatx.shop.” The undercover agent then exchanged emails with the scammers, and arranged to pay $6,000 for 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine — the first half up front and the second after delivery. The money was to be sent to the Navy Federal Credit Union account Oluwalade had acquired.
By Jan. 15, the federal government had seized the fake website and executed a search warrant at the home of the co-conspirator with the bank account. From that co-conspirator’s phone, the agent sent a message to Oluwalade: “Yo where u want me send the bread?”
“Yea send me some thru zelle and some through cash app,” Oluwalade replied.
Oluwalade faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher has not set a sentencing date.