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"I'm getting money over here 'cause I'm something like a hustler, try to take it from me and I'm going for ya jugular," Chimene Onyeri once rapped defiantly in a song. The lyrics would prove to be prophetic as Onyeri, who allegedly made hundreds of thousands of dollars through multiple credit card, debit card, and tax refund scams, decided to stalk and shoot his judge four times to evade punishment for his financial crimes.
As shown in CNBC's "American Greed," airing Mondays at 10/9c, Onyeri was raised in an impoverished neighborhood in Houston and had dreams of one day becoming a rapper. He never really seemed to have a day job, though: his primary source of income was tied to a criminal scheme.
In 2012, a police officer pulled Onyeri and another man over for speeding in Rollingwood, Texas, just outside Austin. Police officer Joel Martin told "American Greed" he had a feeling something was off, so he decided to search the car. He wouldn't find drugs or weapons, however — instead he found about 77 gift cards.
What Onyeri was doing is called credit card skimming. He would use a little device called a skimmer given to associates of his, who held jobs in retail and fast food restaurants.The skimmer was discreetly placed in credit card readers, so that when someone swiped one while buying, the info was secretly recorded. Onyeri would then take the stolen info from the skimmers, encrypt it onto gift cards, use them to buy expensive goods like iPads, and then sell those items on the street for cash.
Onyeri was arrested, and more than a year later in October 2013, he took a deal, pleading guilty to fraudulent use or possession of identifying information. In return, he was sentenced to deferred adjudication, which basically meant if he violated probation, a judge could send him back to prison from anywhere between two to 22 years, according to the show.
But Onyeri didn't exactly take his sentencing seriously. In fact, even while in jail while dealing with this case, he was scheming ways to make money illegally. "I'm a masterminded. … I swear if this s--t works, and I promise you, you will have more than a mil come next year," he's heard telling an associate in a jail phone call recording obtained by "American Greed."
Onyeri moved onto another type of financial fraud after he was free: SIRF, which stands for State Income Refund Fraud. Authorities believed Onyeri used a friend who worked in a government institution to steal names and social security numbers. Then, Onyeri recruited a tax preparer and used that stolen info to help file fraudulent tax returns. He also recruited multiple crooked mailmen to give him addresses he could send the refunds to and intercept them, to avoid having his own address or name linked to the IRS theft.
And that wasn't all: Onyeri also moved on to debit card fraud. He even flew in a consultant from overseas to teach him how to do it. He would place a device known as a bezel skimmer on ATMs with an iPhone camera hidden over the PIN pad. This way he got access to the debit card numbers and the PIN codes needed to use them. He used his collection of associates to buy items with the stolen debit card numbers, then return the goods for cash, promising them a cut of the funds.
While showing off wads of hundreds dollars bills to lure someone into his scheme in a video obtained by "American Greed," Onyeri cheerfully exclaims, "This is something I do on the regular. … Are you still counting? This is all the money I'm gonna throw at the strippers tonight!”
Of course, Onyeri's thievery would eventually catch up to him. He was arrested in June 2015 and by October, he was in front of Judge Julie Kocurek. She made it clear he had violated his probation — and that prison time was a possibility.
Onyeri wasted no time with his murder plot. “Within literally minutes [of leaving court] he began researching her on the internet, using his cellphone," assistant district attorney Dayna Blazey told "American Greed."
Onyeri came to Austin four or five times to stalk Kocurek and learn her patterns so he'd know exactly when to strike. On Nov. 6, 2015, he made his move.
Kocurek had just attended a Friday night football game with her son, Will, a high school sophomore. The teen had a learner's permit so he drove them home after the game, but they were greeted by a bizarre sight when they arrived: a large bag of leaves blocking the driveway. Will got out to move the bag, which is when he saw a gunman emerge from the shadows.
He tried to scream and warn his mother, but Kocurek only had time to duck and hide her head before the shooting, she told the show. She was shot four times before the gunman ran.
"I got that bitch," he said when he returned to the getaway car, an associate would testify in court.
Kocurek was still conscious by the time authorities arrived. In audio recording obtained by "American Greed," she can be heard telling first responders, "I'm a judge." They ask, "Have you been on any big cases lately?" to which she responds, "No."
This is what baffled investigators the most: It just didn't make sense for Onyeri to try to kill Kocurek. Another judge would simply replace her and sentence him, and attempted murder is a much more serious offense than his financial frauds.
"It wasn't about him getting out of anything. It was about him hurting someone who damaged him,” Derek Israel, at the time a homicide investigator with the Austin Police Department, explained to "American Greed."
In fact, his name may never have come up in the investigation if it wasn't for the fact a tipster had called in before and warned officials Onyeri was talking about killing a judge. After the shooting occurred, the same person called in again to let them know Onyeri was taking credit for the attack.
Onyeri was eventually apprehended and was convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of aggravated identity theft, and six counts of witness tampering, according to a press release from the United States Department of Justice.
He was never formally charged in the shooting, but admitted his role in it during court proceedings.
He was sentenced to life in federal prison on Oct. 2, 2018
Kocurek miraculously survived the attempt on her life, although she spent days in a medically induced coma and needed approximately 20 surgeries, according to "American Greed." She continues to work as a judge to this day.
To learn more about how Onyeri utilized burqas and disguises in his debit card scheme, hear more recordings of Onyeri plotting in prison, and see how Kocurek is doing now, watch the season finale of "American Greed," airing on CNBC on March 9, 10/9c. All episodes of "American Greed" can be streamed here.
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