United States v. Onyeri, No. 18-50869 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Onyeri recruited others to assist in stealing credit card numbers and gift cards, engaged a bank employee to open a bank account using stolen identities, used stolen identities to fabricate tax returns, and bribed mailmen to intercept tax-refund checks. The conspirators' debit card fraud resulted in ATM withdrawals of $20,000 and $40,000 at a time. Onyeri and Akwar were charged in Texas in 2012. Onyeri was then out on bond for other (violent) crimes, and had previously been incarcerated for three years.
Judge Kocurek was assigned to Onyeri’s case. Onyeri pled guilty. Judge Kocurek placed him on three-year deferred adjudication probation. The government later moved to proceed with adjudication, alleging that Onyeri had engaged in the fraudulent use of debit cards in Louisiana. Judge Kocurek suggested Onyeri could face several years in prison. Onyeri went to Kocurek’s home and shot Kocurek. Seriously injured, she survived. Onyeri bragged about the shooting. Officers eventually located and apprehended Onyeri.
Onyeri was convicted under RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d): mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, identity theft, access device fraud, money laundering, witness tampering, and attempted murder. Following his conviction, Onyeri’s father, a former teacher, died. Onyeri was to receive benefits from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRST). The district court ordered TRST to pay Onyeri’s benefits toward his restitution obligation. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court erred by admitting evidence obtained from the traffic stop because it was not supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion; that there was insufficient evidence to support a RICO conspiracy conviction; and that the annuity payments were exempt from garnishment.