Obinwanne Okeke, the 31-year-old Nigerian held by the FBI for alleged fraud, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of wire and computer fraud at his first hearing on Monday.
Premium Times reports that the presiding judge at the Newport News, Virginia, federal courthouse, declared the case as “complex,” but said Okeke should be remanded in prison until February 18, 2020, when the trial would continue.
The appearance came a week after a federal grand jury examined the evidence gathered by the F.B.I. and presented by the United States Department of Justice and found Okeke guilty as charged and recommended him for trial.
Upon conviction, the jury also said Okeke should be made to forfeit at least $11 million in asset and an emerald shaped diamond engagement ring found on him when he was first arrested by federal agents as he was about leaving the U.S. on August 6.
The Monday’s appearance marked the commencement of Okeke’s criminal trial since he was arrested and remanded in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service more than a month ago.
Okeke, popularly known as Invictus Obi, was arrested on August 6 in the U.S. and slammed with two counts of computer and wire fraud. He was subsequently taken before a court and remanded in prison following preliminary hearings.
He was accused by the F.B.I. of orchestrating the theft of $11 million from a foreign subsidiary of American heavy equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar.
Okeke faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, as well as the possibility of forfeiting any ill-gotten acquisitions traced to him. Officials familiar with the trial told Premium Times the evidence against Okeke was compelling enough to elicit a guilty plea from him.
But since he had decided to go through the lengthy trial road, he could face maximum sentences with additional punitive liabilities if ultimately found guilty