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Duquesne Players Charged in Fraud

June 5, 1999

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Nine Duquesne University students, including three basketball payers, have been charged in a federal indictment with taking part in an elaborate scheme to defraud PNC Bank of nearly $36,000.

Another suspect who did not attend the school, Robert Unoarumhi of Philadelphia, was also named in the federal indictment, and helped orchestrate the scheme along with basketball players Simon Ogunlesi and Jamal Hunter, U.S. Attorney Harry Litman’s office said.

The scheme involved buying bank credit cards and unused personal checks from students, then using them to make $35,961 in fraudulent withdrawals and money orders between Feb. 22 and April 12, prosecutors said Friday.

Ogunlesi and Hunter, transfer students who had yet to play for Duquesne, are suspended from the university and the basketball team pending the outcome of the case, said the Rev. Sean Hogan, executive vice president for student life.

Disciplinary action against the other students, including reserve basketball player Devone Stephenson, could come after their arraignment scheduled June 15, Hogan said. Charges include conspiracy, trafficking in and using unauthorized access devices and bank fraud.

Also charged are Duquesne students Maritza Harvin, 19; Casey Cook, 19; Derek Garrambone, 20; Onyekachi Emeagi, 23; Kenneth Rivera, 18; and Brooke Jordan, 19, all listed as residing in university dormitories.

``We’re disappointed,″ Hogan said. If the allegations are proven, ``this is totally contrary to what we expect from the students and it’s totally unacceptable, and we’ll take all necessary action.″

John Wisniewski, supervisor of the multi-agency Federal Crimes Task Force, said Ogunlesi and Hunter solicited other Duquesne students to sell their PNC Bank Visa Check Cards and personal checks, which the students would later report as stolen.

The personal checks were allegedly used to make phony deposits into the students’ accounts. Unoarumhi then withdrew money from the inflated accounts by using the check cards at automated teller machines, while he and Ogunlesi also purchased money orders using the check cards, authorities said.

PNC officials soon noticed suspicious activity in the accounts and contacted authorities.

``It didn’t take a genius to determine that the compromise point was at Duquesne University,″ Wisniewski said.

Ogunlesi was arrested Thursday in Wayne, near Philadelphia. Litman said Hunter planned to surrender to authorities in Hartford, Conn., on Monday. Police were still searching for Unoarumhi.

Ogunlesi, 22, and Hunter, 20, transferred to Duquesne this year and were expected to play key roles in a basketball program rebuilding from a disastrous 5-23 season. Ogunlesi, a 6-foot-10 center who transferred from Villanova, and Hunter, a 6-foot-5 guard from Loyola of Maryland, would have been eligible after midterm exams.

Stephenson, 20, a 6-foot 7 reserve forward, was disciplined by Porter for breaking an unspecified team rule last season. He averaged 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 28 games last season.

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