U.S. prosecutors have shared details of criminal charges brought against Odogwu Dozy Mmobuosi, the founder and CEO of Tingo Group, a Nasdaq-listed “agri-fintech” startup. Mmobuosi is accused of reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in fictitious revenues and assets for three companies he controls. 

He is charged with conspiracy, securities fraud and making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The three charges carry a maximum sentence of 45 years; prosecutors say Mmobuosi is at large. 

According to the indictment, Mmobuosi “orchestrated a scheme to enrich himself by falsely representing that Nigerian companies he founded, Tingo Mobile and Tingo Foods, were operational, profitable businesses generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, respectively.”

In 2022, Tingo Group reported that it had cash and cash equivalent of $461.7 million for the fiscal year. Investigations showed that its bank accounts held less than $50 in total.

Mmobuosi propped up his businesses in interviews over the years and, in 2021, told one publication that Tingo had 12 million users and a valuation of $6.3 billion. He told several publications about plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange by 2021. 

In reality, Tingo was listed on the Nasdaq after a series of reverse mergers allegedly based on fake financials. Getting listed on the Nasdaq gave Mmobuosi and his companies access to US investors and capital. The U.S. prosecutors say he was able to siphon an estimated $16 million from Tingo Group. 

The house of cards, propped up by grand claims, was short-lived. A report by Hinderburg Research, the infamous American short seller, soon called Tingo’s financials and operations into question, branding it a fraud of massive proportions. 

On December 18, the SEC announced an investigation into the company, suspending trading in Tingo’s shares. Two days later, Dozy Mmobuosi temporarily stepped down. 

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox