Portland, ME: Anatomy of yet another scam

Updates October 13th and 15th:  Judge sentences her to 6 months in prison, here.

Correction to the correction!  Another commenter now tells us she was born in Nigeria. 

Correction:  A commenter tells us that Ms. Odokara was born and raised in the US. So, we will call her an immigrant rights activist instead of an immigrant.


I am telling everyone of you who have a non-profit group in your town promoting diversity, open borders, social justice etc. etc. to examine the organization very closely.

Just check out this outrageous story from Portland, ME today (hat tip: Susan) that I believe is the tip of the iceberg on phoney-baloney NGO’s.    A Nigerian immigrant  immigrant rights activist had established herself and her supposed non-profit group in Portland and even managed to serve almost five years on the city planning board before the truth came out—she was guilty of embezzling money from the World Bank and earlier of bringing heroin into the US! 

From the Portland Press Herald:

PORTLAND — The vice chairwoman of Portland’s Planning Board resigned abruptly Thursday afternoon, hours after city officials learned that she recently pleaded guilty to criminal charges in federal court.

Shalom Odokara, 49, has served on the board since 2005. She is well known in Maine as an advocate for women’s rights, immigrants and victims of domestic violence. Through her nonprofit organization, Women In Need Industries, Odokara coordinates the annual Festival of Nations, which is scheduled to be held later this month at Deering Oaks.

At a hearing last week in Portland, Odokara pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements to her federal probation officer.

She was on probation after pleading guilty in 2006 for her role in a scheme that involved the embezzlement of $108,000 from the World Bank. According to court records in Washington, D.C., Odokara was a consultant to the World Bank when she and a friend carried out the scheme over several months in 2001.

Odokara was sentenced in March 2008 to five years of probation, during which she was required to report her financial activity to a probation officer. The government learned that Odokara had since provided false information about her finances and had forged bank statements she provided to the officer. She faces a maximum of one year in prison when she is sentenced Oct. 13.

Boo hoo!  City officials feel betrayed.

“I feel betrayed,” said City Councilor John Anton, who voted earlier this year to reappoint Odokara to the Planning Board. He said the city should consider requiring disclosure from board members about criminal cases in which they are involved.

“If someone applies to be a taxi driver or to get a liquor license, we do a criminal background check,” Anton said. “Yet we don’t do that for the people who are setting the standards. It is not necessarily grounds for denial if a person has convictions, but it is information that we should have to make informed decisions.”

I have no sympathy for the betrayed city officials.  The reason they never look into someone like Ms. Odokara’s background is because they are so politically correct that they can’t fathom the possibility that an immigrant  immigrant rights activist do-gooder could also be a scammer.

Odokara is one of six children of well-known educators from Nigeria. According to the International Career Advancement Program in Aspen, Colo., she received a degree in economics in 1981 from McPherson College in Kansas and a master’s in multicultural psychology from Bowie State University in Maryland.

I would check her resume as well and see if she really did earn these degrees.  It reminds me of the case of Nikki Tesfai out in Los Angeles.  Judy told you about her back in September of ’07 here.

Besides ripping off the World Bank with what her lawyer calls sloppy bookkeeping, she was convicted of heroin trafficking in Maryland!

In 1989, she was arrested and later convicted for trafficking heroin from Nigeria to Maryland. She served 1 1/2 years in prison and successfully completed parole in 1993, court records show.

Read the rest of this detailed article in the Press Herald, my excerpts do on do it justice.

I just checked out ‘Women in Need’ in Portland on Guidestar and there is nothing there but an address.  No IRS letter of determination, no Form 990’s, no Board of Directors, nothing!   Interested Maine folks should check with your State’s Attorney General’s office and see if any non-profit documents are on file with the State.

Readers:  If you would like to see other frauds and scams we’ve written about check our “crimes” category, although it may not be complete because we didn’t create that category early on (we weren’t thinking we would see so many immigrant crimes!).

Bedbugs plague refugees (and landlords)

I think this is one of those chicken or egg stories—-you know, which came first?  Refugees or bedbugs?  Yesterday a couple of readers knew I would be interested in this  AP story from Manchester, NH about a refugee apartment building infested with bedbugs.  

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — After all the officials took turns explaining a plan to end a bedbug infestation in an apartment building where mostly refugees live, Michel Ndayavugwi simply pointed to the young boy dozing in a chair in the back of the room.

“He’s sleeping because last night, he didn’t sleep,” Ndayavugwi said through an interpreter. “What can we do? Please, find for us good apartments and good housing … so that our children will not sleep in the classroom.”

Ndayavugwi lives at Langdon Mill, a four-story brick building that’s home to 16 families, most of them refugees from Somalia, Sudan and other African nations.

The building’s owner, tenants and various city agencies have spent years trying to tackle infestations. But ultimately it was two children who inspired a more aggressive plan to not only eliminate the infestation there but also to create a model for other landlords, tenants and communities around the state.

Read all about the plan which involves temporarily removing all the tenants (who, incidentally say they were promised decent housing), trashing all their furnishing and bedding and fumigating the building.

The Manchester story also mentions something we all know, that bedbugs had virtually been eradicated in most of the US until recent years.

Bedbugs – tiny flat insects that emerge from mattresses, sofas and sheets to feed on human blood at night – have made a comeback in recent years, invading hospitals, college dorms, hotels and apartment buildings around the country. The insects are not known to transmit any diseases, but their bites can cause infections and allergic reactions.

Coincidence?  Back in January I told you about the “Mysterious case of the bedbug evictions” in Shelbyville, TN.   In that story the apartment manager allegedly evicted Somali tenants if they had bedbug infested apartments.  The Somalis claimed that anyone who complained was evicted.  I never did hear what finally happened with that infested building, but rumor has it many of the Somalis have moved on elsewhere—to New Hampshire maybe?

I know a local landlord and know how difficult a time landlords are having economically, loaded down with every restriction under the sun, so why on earth would anyone take a chance renting to refugees?  I guess legally they can’t refuse!  This is not the first time Manchester has had landlord/refugee problems.  Here is a post I wrote more than a year ago about similar problems in Nebraska and it has links to other landlord/refugee problems including the one in Manchester. 

By the way, I think there is a method to the madness:  ultimately the goal is to run private landlords out of business and nationalize housing—one more liberal fascist agenda item to destroy property rights—-the ultimate underpinning of capitalism.

Endnote:  Notice we have an African “community organizer.”   The New American Africans is apparently your typical Alinsky/Obama style community agitation group (see our whole category on Community Destabilization here). 

Although I could find nothing on their financing or legal structure (no Guidestar listing, no IRS determination letter, no Form 990, no website even), your tax dollars are probably paying their salaries.  

Honore Murenzi was visiting Langdon Mill in April as part of his work with New American Africans, a nonprofit group that helps the city’s refugees.