Washington, DC - A Maryland man pleaded guilty Friday to filing a false claim for his role in a scheme to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars in State Department funds to his own use. 

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko, and the Department of State’s Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Michael Ryan made the announcement.

Oyetayo Fagbenro, 62, of Ellicott City, Maryland, pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false claim before U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 12, 2021, before Chief Judge Howell. 

As part of his guilty plea, Fagbenro admitted that he was awarded three grants to build media centers at Afghan universities, as part of the United States’ continuing efforts in Afghan reconstruction. He admitted that between September 2010 and August 2012 he received approximately $6.9 million in advances for part of the work on the projects.  He further admitted that in that same period he sent approximately $1.38 million from Afghan accounts funded by the State Department to persons he knew and entities he controlled in the United States and other countries, all outside of Afghanistan.

Fagbenro admitted that about $775,000 of the funds he sent outside Afghanistan went to relatives, friends, and corporate entities he controlled with no connection to the purposes of the grants. Fagbenro further admitted that in December 2012 he filed a document with the State Department for one of the grants certifying that he had spent all the State Department funds properly and that he needed more funds to complete the project.  He has admitted that those statements were both false.  Fagbenro has admitted that the State Department lost about $775,000 as a result of his fraud.

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is the nation’s leading prosecuting authority for complex procurement fraud and corruption matters.

This case was investigated by the State Department Office of Inspector General and the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.  Trial Attorney James Gelber of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.