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!).

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