USDA Employee Admits to Defrauding DC and WMATA in $1 Million Scheme

  • Naomi Dela Cruz
  • U.S.A
  • July 10, 2024

Ifediora Oli, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has admitted guilt to charges of conspiracy to defraud local agencies. Oli, alongside other public officials, orchestrated a scheme that siphoned over $1 million to his privately owned company, Highbury Global Group, Inc. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Scott, and inspectors general from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General.

Oli, 41, residing in Silver Spring, Maryland, entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving money, property, and honest services, as well as one count of falsifying records. His sentencing is scheduled for October 16 before U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

This case is part of a broader investigation that also implicated Bridgette Crowell and Obinna Ogbu. These co-defendants have admitted their roles in the conspiracy, revealing a complex web of deceit and corruption within multiple public agencies. The conspiracy spanned from 2018 to 2023, during which Oli, while employed at the USDA, also led Highbury. Ogbu, an IT customer support manager at WMATA, exploited his position to favor contracts for Highbury. Crowell, who managed contracts at the District’s Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP), similarly abused her role to benefit Oli’s company.

The scheme’s intricacies involved Ogbu and Crowell using their respective positions to funnel funds to Highbury through various contracts. Oli compensated them with substantial bribes, including cash payments. For instance, Crowell managed the solicitation and awarding of a contract to provide COVID-19 testing supplies, which resulted in a payout of over $630,000 to Highbury. In exchange, Oli disbursed significant sums to both Ogbu and Crowell for their corrupt actions.

Oli’s falsification of financial disclosure records further compounded his legal troubles. As a USDA employee, he was required to submit annual Confidential Financial Disclosure Reports (OGE Form 450). Oli repeatedly falsified these documents to conceal his illicit activities with Highbury, thwarting USDA’s ability to detect conflicts of interest.

The investigation was a coordinated effort by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the WMATA Office of the Inspector General, and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Visser of the Fraud, Public Corruption, and Civil Rights Section is leading the prosecution.