Coming off the heels of the arrest of Nigerian pop star Dammy Krane in Miami, Florida, for identity theft, among other charges, Babalola Falemi aka Sinzu, a popular Nigerian hip-hop artist, has just been sentenced to two years in Federal Prison in Boise, Idaho, for aggravated identity theft.
Sinzu has an extensive run in with the law and overwhelmingly, they have been for crimes involving identity theft, all on the state level. Last year, however, things reached a climatic point when he was arrested on or about July 26, 2016, in Ada County, Idaho for grand theft and possession of a counterfeiting apparatus. Sinzu was formally based in Los Angeles, California but moved to Houston, Texas, where he was residing until the aforementioned case.
In Idaho, the case proceeded through the state court until September 21, 2016, when it was dismissed on the motion of the Prosecutor. I suspect the state charges were dismissed because they had overarching Federal implications and the Federal courts, had jurisdiction (the power) to hear and determine Sinzu’s fate. Indeed, on September 13 and 14, there was an indictment filed and entered in Federal court, respectively, against Sinzu. On September 21, when his matter was dismissed in state court, there was already a warrant for his arrest issued in Federal court, and the very next day, he was in Federal court for an arraignment.
On June 20, 2017, last week, a Federal district court judge in Idaho sentenced him to two years in prison after he entered a plea of guilty to an ‘aggravated grand theft’ charge. See the court’s judgment below. Sinzu is now in the custody of the United States Marshal and upon his release, two years from now; will be on supervised probation for one year.
According to the indictment which you can also find below, Sinzu was charged with the following:
- Count 1: Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
- 2-9: Bank fraud (eight counts)
- 10-17: Aggravated identity theft
- 18: Access device fraud and bank fraud
- A bank fraud forfeiture allegation was also added. This essentially means Sinzu has to forfeit the cash proceeds, and personal property (access devices, gift cards, merchandise and other property the police seized from him at the time of arrest). Sinzu allegedly possessed 15 or more fraudulent bank cards. The total counts against him was 18. Counts 1-9, and 11-18 were dismissed. He pleaded to count 10, an aggravated identity theft.
In a nutshell, it is alleged that Sinzu stole the sum of $15, 387.98 through bank card numbers and identifying information from Idaho Central Credit Union customers. He then used the stolen information and an encoding device to manipulate and change account PINs, and then withdrew cash from Boise ATMS owned by ICCU customers, in different locations including at Albertsons stores. The police arrested Sinzu at the local airport as he was about to board a flight.
- AML artists, I can’t stress this enough. Be authentically you. Cut your coat according to your size.
- Work on the inner you so that you can deal and withstand the pressure that comes with stardom and being in the limelight. When I interviewed Sinzu on The Africa Music Law Show in September of 2014, he ironically talked about the pressure he faced and artists faced to live a life they simply couldn’t afford.Working on your inner self is a lot of work but if you put in the work, daily, the rewards long term is highly beneficial and positive.
- Nigeria’s music industry and its artists continue to gain global prominence for the new sound style that the West has dubbed “Afrobeats.” While the world looks on, one thing is for sure. Nigerian entertainment industry professionals and citizens worldwide will also have to deal with the growing pains of the music industry, as its artists who choose to live ostentatious lives to meet the pressure and demands of their fan base, and the public, get caught in the criminal justice system in key music markets around the globe. Industry veterans including persons like 2Face who recently defended Dammy Krane should really begin taking on artists and mentoring them. It is not enough to say, they got caught in the wrong company. Mentorship is needed on all levels. When I interviewed Sinzu in September of 2014, he discussed the positive impact the mentorship with industry veteran Obi Asika had on him and losing that relationship.
- Have your lawyer on speed dial. Many in Africa’s entertainment industry want to emulate the West, but where it really counts, they don’t. If you will be in the entertainment industry, lawyers have to be your best friend, period. You should have a lawyer for your entertainment matters, and if you know your ways are not straight, you should have a pretty good criminal defense lawyer on speed dial as well. Even if they are straight, you should have a criminal defense lawyer on speed dial if you will hang out in Western shores, and keep the company of people who you are clueless about their backgrounds, where they have been and what they are doing.
- Finally, I’ve discussed arrests, arraignments, and the criminal process general. Visit the hyperlinks, listen to Sinzu’s throwback interview on The Africa Music Law Show, and also read the documents below, and stay out of trouble.
In This Episode, You Will Learn About:
- Sinzu’s personal background and involvement in gangs in L.A.
- How he broke into the music industry
- What he did to gain recognition in the streets with his music and sell his music.
- Why he moved to Nigeria.
- His business relationship with Obi Asika and Storm Records
- What happened and why he split with Storm.
- Social media “beef,” his thoughts on social media.
- Advice to fellow artists.
- New music projects.
Indictment[scribd id=352326031 key=key-mF6MQlK2ocdZrkaKbnzV mode=scroll]
Sentencing[scribd id=352326268 key=key-tkgVwBvuczSuJYgXXXxJ mode=scroll]
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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine.
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