African immigrant's murder unsolved while Feds go after his money

Posted: June 26, 2013

WHEN GBOLAHAN "Bo" Olabode came to America, Philly police locked him up for a crime he didn't commit.

Now the Nigerian immigrant is accused of another crime - one for which he can't be arrested or sent to prison, because he's dead and buried back in Lagos.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is trying to get access to $410,680 they allege the former resident of Lansdowne, Delaware County, made selling prescription painkillers and anabolic steroids before he was murdered last year.

Meanwhile, the murder remains unsolved, and Olabode's friends and siblings are confused about how justice is playing out.

"If somebody is killed in America, we have to find out who did it and arrest him, not go after his money," said Bankole Olabode, Gbolahan's younger brother.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, according to a federal civil-forfeiture complaint filed this month, received a tip on Jan. 3, 2012, alleging that Gbolahan Olabode, 45, was involved in selling oxycodone in the Philadelphia area. The next day, one or more gunmen fired 25 shots at him outside his apartment on Owen Avenue in Lansdowne. Police there described the murder as an execution. The investigation remains open.

According to the federal complaint, investigators followed up on the drug-dealing tip after the murder and found that Olabode, who co-owned pharmacies in the area, had $6,851 on him when he died and an additional $89,770 in cash in the apartment. Investigators seized two bank-deposit boxes days after the murder and later did an "expenditure analysis" of his personal tax returns, returns for the pharmacies and his savings accounts, and determined that he spent about $1 million more than he had available.

"There is reasonable belief that the defendant property is drug proceeds," the complaint stated.

An attorney representing Olabode's estate did not return requests for comment. Steven L. Kessler, a New York lawyer who specializes in defending forfeiture claims, said that more than 90 percent of them go uncontested. Although it's rare, Kessler said he's handled forfeiture cases for clients who were deceased.

"Forfeiture is about fundraising, nothing else," he said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment beyond the complaint. Earlier this month, the FBI "visited" the Lansdowne Pharmacy, where Olabode was once a co-owner, spokeswoman Carrie Adamowski said. No charges have been filed against Olabode's former business partner there as of yesterday. That man declined to comment.

In 1992, Olabode was studying criminal justice at Temple University when he was charged with robbing and assaulting University of Pennsylvania students. He spent 43 days in jail, and after charges were dropped, he won a $275,000 settlement against the city. The former bodybuilder chronicled the ordeal in his book Born Suspect: The Life and Trials of Gbolahan Olabode.

Family friend Karen Chenoweth said Olabode fought hard to clear his name.

"The man I knew did nothing but worked," she said. "This just doesn't make any sense."

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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