Make us your home page

Judge orders Tampa Bay payday lender closed as FTC alleges fraud

A federal judge ordered a Tampa Bay area-based payday lending operation closed after its owners allegedly stole more than $5 million from tens of thousands of unwitting victims, authorities announced Wednesday.

In a civil lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission accuses Odafe Stephen Ogaga, 29, of Clearwater and Sean C. Mulrooney, 23, formerly of Clearwater Beach, of using their five companies and multiple websites to collect consumers' names, Social Security numbers and banking information to pilfer funds from their accounts.

According to the FTC, the men used the money to support a lavish lifestyle that included high-end luxury cars. Mulrooney is the registered owner of a 2012 Maserati GranTurismo, while Ogaga owns a 2011 Rolls-Royce Ghost and a 2006 Ferrari F430, according to documents filed in the case.

Ogaga and Mulrooney operated websites under the names Vantage Funding, Ideal Advance, Loan Assistance Company, Palm Loan Advances, Loan Tree Advances, Pacific Advances and Your Loan Funding.

James Davis, an attorney in Illinois with the FTC, which received nearly 1,300 complaints, said the two men ran their operation at times from a downtown Tampa office and more recently from their homes.

Mulrooney and Ogaga's operation involves what the FTC called "a phony online payday loan broker." The FTC said the operation promised to get payday loans for consumers but instead used the financial information they provided to debit their accounts.

On Aug. 29, a federal judge in Illinois issued a temporary restraining order against Ogaga and Mulrooney, which forced the operation to close and froze the men's assets pending litigation.

"We're going to be seeking redress for consumers," Davis said. The FTC also is seeking an order "that prohibits these defendants from engaging in this behavior ever again."

Reached on his cellphone, Ogaga declined to comment and referred the matter to his attorney. Messages left for his attorney were not returned.

Ogaga has been arrested six times since 1997, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. As an adult, Ogaga was charged with robbery, battery and petty theft. The robbery and battery charges were later dropped, but he pleaded guilty to the petty theft charge and was ordered to perform community service.

Davis said Mulrooney moved from his home in Clearwater Beach to Delaware. Voice messages left at Mulrooney's Delaware address were not returned. Mulrooney has no criminal record in Florida.

Ivan Penn can be reached at or (727) 892-2332.

Judge orders Tampa Bay payday lender closed as FTC alleges fraud 09/04/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 8:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.


    DETROIT — Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators.

  2. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  3. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  4. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  5. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.