Maryland man pleads guilty to starting scam website that offered to sell COVID-19 vaccine for $30

·2 min read
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A Maryland man faces up to 20 years in prison after confessing to a COVID-19 vaccine scam.

Odunayo Oluwalade, 25, pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud conspiracy Friday for starting a phony website that promised to sell the Moderna vaccine “ahead of time,” according to the Department of Justice.

Oluwalade, his cousin Olakitan and a third man, Kelly Williams, were arrested in February, just as the vaccine rollout was beginning in the U.S.

According to prosecutors, the conmen started a website called, deceptively similar to Moderna’s real, and copied the real logos, colors and design.

“You may be able to buy a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of time,” the phony website read, along with a link to “contact us,” according to the plea agreement.

An undercover Homeland Security agent reached out in early January and, within a few emails, was sent an invoice for 200 doses at $30 per dose, for a total of $6,000. The buyer was ordered to pay 50% up front and 50% upon delivery and payments were to be sent to a Navy Federal Credit Union account to which Oluwalade had gained access in November.

The undercover agent transferred the money and four days later, government officials seized the website and executed search warrants, including at the home of Williams, one of Oluwalade’s co-conspirators.

“As the public seeks vaccines to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19, fraudsters are waiting to take advantage of their desperation. We want to remind the public to exercise extreme caution online, especially when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and protective equipment,” James Mancuso, the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations Baltimore, said in a statement at the time of Oluwalade’s arrest.

“HSI, with our local and federal partners, is working tirelessly around the country to get fraudulent websites off the internet and counterfeit personal protective equipment and medications off the streets to protect the public from these dangerous scams.”