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UPDATE 1-US charges ex-fintech CEO who tried to buy Sheffield United with fraud

(New throughout, adds details from indictment, defendant's whereabouts, details on SEC civil lawsuit, case citation)

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, Jan 2 (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan unveiled criminal charges against a Nigerian fintech businessman who recently bid unsuccessfully for an English Premier League soccer team, saying he lied to investors about his companies' finances.

Odogwu Banye Mmobuosi, 45, the former co-chief executive officer of Tingo Group, was charged with securities fraud, making false U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, and conspiracy in an indictment made public on Tuesday.

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Prosecutors said the defendant, known as Dozy Mmobuosi, falsely represented that his Tingo Mobile cellular business and Tingo Foods agriculture business were profitable, generating hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue.

Mmobuosi sold both businesses to Tingo Group and Agri-Fintech Holdings, caused them to falsely portray the businesses as "cash-rich, revenue-generating companies," and looted millions of dollars by misappropriating cash and selling stock at inflated prices, the indictment said.

The alleged scheme occurred from 2019 to 2023, prosecutors said. Mmobuosi is at large. A lawyer for him could not immediately be identified.

Tingo Group, based in Montvale, New Jersey, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mmobuosi temporarily stepped down as Tingo Group's co-CEO on Dec. 20, two days after the SEC filed civil charges accusing him of orchestrating a "staggering" fraud.

The SEC said Mmobuosi siphoned at least $16 million from Tingo Group. It said he used the money to buy luxury cars and travel on private jets, and to try to buy the Sheffield United soccer team when it was in the lower Championship league.

According to the SEC complaint, Tingo Mobile purports to supply mobile handsets and related services to farmers in Nigeria, while Tingo Foods is a purported food processor.

Tingo Group is a defendant in the SEC case, and has said it intended to vigorously defend itself.

The indictment was made public nearly seven months after the short-seller Hindenburg Research accused Tingo Group of having "fabricated" its financials, and challenged Mmobuosi's claim to have developed Nigeria's first mobile payment app.

The case is U.S. v. Mmobuosi, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 23-cr-00601. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)