One day after the FOX 9 Investigators reported that as many as 24,000 Minnesota drivers licenses may be frauds, a state employee working in Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's department appeared in court to face charges that she fraudulently obtained a drivers license and housing assistance.
A federal indictment was unsealed on Monday, revealing that a 53-year-old Woodbury woman who works as an administrative assistant in the Secretary of State's Office has been accused of using an alternate identity to receive more than $18,000 in low-income housing help from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Oluremi George has been charged with five counts of Social Security fraud, four counts of making false statements, and one count of passport fraud in the indictment, which was filed on July 10. George made her first appearance in federal court on Monday.
George is accused of using the name Victoria Ayoola -- and the Social Security number for that name, which George is accused of fraudulently gathering from the Commissioner of Social Security -- in applications for a Minnesota drivers license and low-income housing tax credits at the Pondview Townhomes between March 2008 and Jan. 14, 2011.
Sources confirmed to FOX 9 News that Gov. Mark Dayton was briefed on this case a few days ago since George has spent seven years working in Minnesota government, though none of her alleged crimes involve her post directly.
Yet, when it comes to driver's licenses -- real or fake -- the Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is already at the center of controversy as an outspoken opponent of the upcoming voter ID referendum on the ballot in November, which would require voters to have a valid state ID.
The irony of the indictment was not lost on Minnesota Majority, the group campaigning for the amendment. Ritchie, however, is out of state and has been unavailable for comment.
FOX 9 News checked to see if Victoria Ayoola had voted in recent elections, and it appears that she did; however, she did not use her legitimate identity to vote.
The Pondview development uses HUD loans and funds, along with tax credits, to provide housing help -- but a person must make less than the federal annual tax credit income limit to live there. Officials accuse George of intentionally misrepresenting her 2008 income, claiming her income would be $29,263 although she knew it would be about $56,400.
The charging documents say George, a native of Nigeria and naturalized citizen, lied about her income and used the fraudulent Social Security number four times between 2008 and 2011, and she also obtained a drivers license in 2009.
Prosecutors claim George also previously submitted a passport application under the name Ayoola with the fraudulent Social Security number in July of 2007.
If convicted, George faces maximum penalties of 10 years in prison on the passport fraud charge and five years for each of the remaining charges.
Facial recognition software flagged nearly 24,000 licenses that could be fraudulent, but the FOX 9 Investigators found only a few cases have been prosecuted so far.
Although George's case was picked up, the other licenses that have been flagged as potential frauds have not yet been checked against the Human Services roster to check for welfare fraud -- or against the voter rolls; however, they do plan to crosscheck the names beginning in July 2013.
So far, about 10,000 of the licenses have been canceled. Vehicle services is still working on canceling about 13,000 more, and more criminal prosecutions are expected.
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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