Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s detectives arrested 26-year-old former UCSB student Imoukhuede Ohiwerei Ehimika last month on several charges of identity theft.
County law enforcement charged Ehimika on Dec. 21 for allegedly procuring at least $158,000 from several Santa Barbara and Goleta residents. Ehimika posted the $150,000 bail for his release on Dec. 28.
According to Deputy District Attorney Anthony Davis, the DA’s office is currently pressing eight separate charges against Ehimika, including grand theft and fraudulent grand theft.
“Our office filed in the current complaint against him and there is an eight-count complaint,” Davis said. “The first count he is charged with is a felony grand theft, which is a different version of grand theft, and counts two and three are also grand theft but charged slightly differently in those two counts after taking money over a certain amount from two different banks.”
In their investigation, detectives learned Ehimika allegedly transferred money from victims’ legitimate bank accounts into fraudulent bank accounts set up under their names. The amount of funds that Ehimika’s victims were taken for ranged from $5,000 to $65,000.
Davis said Ehimika is scheduled to reappear in court on Jan. 19 to discuss negotiation settlements, among other details.
“Counts four through eight are all the same with different victims and those are all identity theft charges,” Davis said. “He is back in court on the 19th of January and his attorney and I would then discuss the case for purposes of settlement, negotiations and whatnot.”
Depending on the outcome of the trial, the court may decide to hold Ehimika responsible for repaying the victims’ stolen funds.
Attorney at Law Jack Fleischli said it is unlikely the victims will receive their stolen finances regardless of the trial’s outcome.
“Restitution is a criminal court judgment that says how much money the guilty person has to pay back,” Flieschli said. “In the judgment of conviction, the criminal will have to pay restitution to the victims that is determined by the probation department, but the criminals usually spend all the money, do not have any more and go to jail.”
Third-year economics major Timothy Pontius said it is important to use secure methods for online transactions to prevent similar identity theft scams.
“After hearing about this incident I will definitely use my online banking more and direct deposit options to prevent my identity from being stolen,” Pontius said.
To learn more about identity theft and how to protect oneself, visit the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Web site at sbsheriff.org. Some useful tips listed on the Web site include shredding old mail, direct depositing checks, accessing online bill pay and using online banking to check account activity.