Feds Bring Extortion Case Against School Security Guard Firm

March 18, 2011

On March 11, 2011, a federal criminal Complaint was unsealed that alleged from May 2008 through January 2011, Jackson U. Ojo, Edith Ojo, and Larenta Ojo perpetrated a scheme to defraud the New York City School Construction Authority ("SCA") through the operation of  the defendants' company, Jackson International Security Co. ("JIS"). The defendants were arrested the same day. 

NOTE: The charges in the Complaint are merely allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. 

False Documentation

As an SCA approved vendor, JIS was required to file certified payroll information with the authority.  However, it is alleged that the payroll information JIS submitted to the SCA, which was certified as accurate by Jackson Ojo, materially misrepresented the sites where guards worked, the dates/hours of such service, and the amount of wages paid.  Pointedly, Jackson Ojo is charged with falsely certifying that certain JIS guards were paid at or near the "prevailing wage" (an SCA requirement). 


On October 23, 2009, Lawrenta Ojo, in the presence of Jackson Ojo, specifically told a confidential source ("CS-1″) that if approached at a public school construction site by SCA inspectors, CS-1 should lie about his wages and state that he earned $15.50 per hour (if he had worked for less than a year), and $16.75 per hour (if he had worked for more than a year). However, as Lawrenta Ojo admitted to CS-1, CS-1 was only paid about $8.00 per hour by JIS. 


Numerous meetings with the defendants were recorded by CS-1 from September 2009 through September 2010, and those recordings established that Jackson, Edith, and Lawrenta Ojo demanded extortionate kick-backs as a condition for continued employment.  During recorded meetings at JIS's offices in the Bronx on May 28, 2010, June 11, 2010, and July 9, 2010, the defendants essentially told CS-1 that $250 out of each paycheck had to be paid to JIS as a condition for continued employment. 

Nigeria Connection

In addition, the Complaint alleged that the defendants deposited proceeds of their fraud and extortion schemes into bank accounts located in the United States, and then transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to bank accounts in Nigeria. 

For example, JIS had a bank account at Citibank (the "JIS Citibank Account") where hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments for security guard services provided by JIS were deposited. On June 8, 2009, approximately $295,000 in checks drawn on the JIS Citibank Account, and made payable to "Edith Ojo," were deposited into a Citibank account in the name of "Edith Ojo" (the "Edith Ojo Citibank Account"). On June 11, 2009, approximately $275,000 was transferred by wire from the Edith Ojo Citibank Account to a bank account in the name of "Ojo Jackson" in Nigeria.

The Charges

Jackson, Edith, and Lawrenta Ojo are each charged with five counts: extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from the extortion and mail and wire fraud counts. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the mail fraud, wire fraud, and extortion counts; and ten years in prison for conspiring to engage monetary transactions in property derived from the extortion and mail and wire fraud counts.

Bill Singer's Comment:

This prosecution highlights much of what plagues our nation.  The allegations of predatory employment practices at the lower-end of the wage scale raise questions about local-government hiring practices that routinely subcontract out work to unscrupulous contractors.  Such subcontracting often feeds a network of political patronage or encourages the drafting of Requests for Proposals that are worded to ensure that only a select few contractors can bid.  These practices enervate state and local government. 

With layoffs of teachers threatened throughout  the New York City school system, it is maddening that we are only now wrestling with a criminal matter involving construction sites for schools that we probably can't afford to build and that would requie staffing that we can't afford to hire. If the allegations are proven, SCA was paying security guards double what they actually earned (calculating in the kick backs). Which raises the legitimate question as to whether SCA should have negotiated a better hourly rate directly with potential employees (say 80% of the full amount that the guards were never paid).