A Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, presided over by Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo, has sentenced an internet fraudster, Chinedu Omesu, to one-year imprisonment over $475,000 fraud.
The convict (23), who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was arraigned for defrauding an Asian-American woman of the sum of $475,000.
The anti-graft agency re-arraigned the convict on an amended three-count charge bordering on possession of fraudulent documents and stealing, following a plea bargain agreement.
Omesu, who was first arraigned on 6th August 2021, on an 11-count charge had in the course of the trial told the court that he would want to enter a plea bargain rather than go the full hog of the trial.
Earlier before his conviction, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court that a plea bargain had finally been reached after a series of setbacks.
Mr Oyedepo stated that based on the plea bargain, a fresh three-count amended charge dated 14th of February 2022 was filed against the convict, urging the court to take his plea.
According to the charge: “Omesu Christian Chinedu, on or about the 31st day of March 2021 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court whilst holding yourself out as one Frederick Leo Ryan, a serving military operative of the United States with Finnish descent, dishonestly converted to your use the sum of $350,000 property of one Soon Kim.”
He pleaded “guilty” to the charges.
Following his plea, Mr Oyedepo, through the first prosecution witness, Saidu Abubakar, an operative of the EFCC, tendered in evidence the bank account statement of the defendant domiciled in Fidelity Bank, which the bank forwarded to the EFCC following a letter of investigation activities sent to the bank.
There was no objection from the defence and it was admitted in evidence.
The EFCC counsel urged the court to “convict him as charged”, following his guilty plea and “unequivocal admission of the alleged offence and the evidence of PW1, Exhibit A to H”.
Subsequently, the Commission reviewed the facts of the case. In the review, the Commission said that the evidence before the court showed that the defendant and his cronies that were arrested while lodged in James Court Hotel, Ikate, Lekki Phase 1 on the 21st of April 2021 involved in cybercrime.
“He was arrested and found on him were an iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 7+, Nokia TA iPhone 1004 and one iTel phone.
“Investigation also uncovered a Mercedes Benz ALG parked on his premises which was at the time worth Thirty-Six Million Naira.
“Upon arrest, the digital devices recovered from him were subjected to forensic analysis wherein it was found that the defendant had in his possession various degrees of documents used as an intermediate step to defraud a woman known as Kim Soon.”
Some of the documents used in perpetrating the fraud, he said, were an affidavit of proof of funds purportedly mailed by one Jackson Allen, of High Court of Justice, Lagos, Nigeria wherein the purported Allen had averred that one Frederick Ryan Leo who was a purported United Nations staff claiming to have in his favour the sum of $7million.
He said: “Another document found on him was the one titled cheque withdrawal requirement purportedly emanating from Zenith Bank Nigeria Plc, which document was used to create an impression that the aforementioned sum of $7million has been confirmed by the Zenith Bank of Nigeria along other documents listed in the plea bargain agreement.
“These documents were found to be false and through the various false pretences contained, the victim of the offence lost about $475,000 to the defendant between February to April 2021.
“Our partner Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US interviewed the victim, and the findings show that the victim believed the various representation made to her by the defendant and parted with the $475,000.
“It was in the course of the trial that the defendant opted to change his mind.”
Thereafter, Justice Taiwo pronounced him guilty as charged.
Following the allocutus and based on the plea bargain agreement, Justice Taiwo sentenced him to one year in prison beginning from 1st January 2022, without an option of a fine.
As part of efforts towards restituting the victim, the court further ordered that he hands over a Lexus SUV to the prosecution within 60 days, and also the sum of N8.5 million being part of the proceeds of the crime in the custody of his father was ordered to be handed over to the prosecution.