Federal prosecutors want a California man to spend more than five years behind bars for his role in an international fraud ring that posed as a Navy officer while fleecing millions of dollars worth of electronic equipment from multiple companies.
Filed Saturday in Greenbelt, Maryland, the motion targets Saul Eady, the first of nine defendants slated to be sentenced for what became a $7.7 million scheme to rip off three companies between 2015 and 2017.
Eady pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, nearly three years after Homeland Security Investigations agents in Cape Canaveral asked their colleagues in Baltimore to investigate “Daniel Drunz,” a man believed to have been posing as a Navy contracting officer to obtain sensitive commodities from cleared defense contractors.
There was no Daniel Drunz. He was an electronic ghost attached to a “navy-mil.us” domain name acquired from Yahoo in 2015, according to Eady’s criminal complaint.
Court records indicate that the fraud and money laundering ring linking grifters in California, Virginia, Maryland, Mexico and Nigeria used the bogus Drunz to order computers, specialized communications components, Apple iPhones, tablets and large screen televisions from a trio of companies.
The names of the victim firms are redacted in the court records, but one that’s headquartered in the state of Washington provides wireless voice and data services. Another in Virginia is a wholesale distributor of audio and video products. The third is a defense contractor in Maryland.
Without prior payment, the hoodwinked firms shipped the equipment to offices in Frederick, Maryland, and Chantilly, Virginia, that had been rented with stolen identities. From there, hundreds of televisions and other equipment marked for shipment to California, Nigeria and Mexico.
On Sept. 12, 2018, a federal grand jury in Maryland returned a 16-count indictment charging Eady and his sister Saulina, plus defendants Peter Unakalu, Khalid Razaq, Janet Sturmer, Eunice Nkongho, Troy Barbour and Brandon “Shaba X” Ross with numerous federal criminal offenses occurring between October 2015 and March 2017.
Eleven months later, a grand jury added Eucharia Njoku to the list of defendants.
According to court filings, Ross ran the West Coast wing of the syndicate and he recruited Eady, who then brought his sister into the organization.
Using aliases, the Eady siblings obtained a least 493 stolen TVs from the Virginia company in late 2016 and early 2017, ostensibly on behalf of the Pentagon and the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs, according to the federal records.
In early 2017, however, shipping giant FedEx flagged a suspicious delivery of 188 TVs addressed to Saulina Eady. The delay prodded both siblings to visit an unidentified FedEx facility in California, with the sister demanding without luck to receive the televisions for “hospital services,” the filings state.
Prosecutors initially estimated federal agents never recovered at least $1.6 million worth of televisions shipped to California before later dropping the figure to $1.1 million.
Saul Eady is slated to appear for sentencing before U.S. District Judge George Hazel on Feb. 24.
Eady was convicted eight times for burglary, transporting and selling marijuana, trespassing and driving with a suspended licence. With that rap sheet, federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term ranging from 57 to 71 months.
But Hazel isn’t bound by those recommendations and in a Feb. 10 motion Eady’s criminal defense attorney —Dwight E. Crawley — pointed to a “significant drug problem” that contributed to his client’s “troubled life” and asked for a three-year sentence.
“He understands that he has made numerous mistakes and must be punished for his involvement in this case,” Crawley wrote. “However, since his arrest, the defendant has expressed great remorse for his conduct and has done everything in his power to take responsibility for his role in this case.”
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.