A 28-year-old New Jersey man has been indicted by a Williamson County Grand Jury on charges of money laundering, theft of property and computer fraud following a 2020 incident where allegedly a Fairview man lost around $94,000.
Habib O. Lawal, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was transported to Williamson County and arraigned in court on Monday, but was not granted bail.
This was in part due to the absence of a Williamson County Sheriff’s Office detective who has contracted COVID-19 and was therefore not able to appear in court for the scheduled hearing.
Lawal pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a bail hearing has been moved to Aug. 30.
Monday’s hearing included testimony from Lawal’s father and from his fiancé, who live in Rhode Island and New Jersey, respectively. They both spoke about the family’s connection with Nigeria and their assurance that if Lawal is granted bail that he would make his future court dates.
Lawal, who is originally from Nigeria before immigrating to the United States in 2009, was arrested on July 30, 2021, as he boarded an international flight to Nigeria for what his family said was his intent to attend a wedding.
The June 2021 indictment is scarce on details, but according to the alleged victim, a man from Fairview, this all began when he attempted to buy a piece of property last year.
The victim recounted in a phone call that as he attempted to purchase the property in Nunnelly, Tenn., he sent a little over $94,000 in a wire transfer to a bank account provided by reputable representatives of a real estate closing company via email.
About an hour and a half after receiving the wire instructions, the victim said he received a second email from the sender which provided what the email said was corrected bank account number to send the money to, citing an error with the original email that was sent to the man.
The victim then transferred the money, but the payment was never received to complete the real estate transaction, which then led to the victim contacting his bank.
The man alleges that Lawal "hacked" some part of the financial processes and stole the money, but prosecutors have not yet disclosed how they believe Lawal is connected to the alleged theft or the extent of his alleged involvement.
More is expected to be revealed in testimony on Aug. 30 when Lawal is scheduled to return to court. Until that time he remains held in the Williamson County Jail.