Friday, September 4, 2015 10:06 am
Godwin Nwaofor, a Nigerian conman who lives a playboy lifestyle by scamming pensioners out of their life savings has been jailed. Trial Judge Richard Hone, QC, had little sympathy for 36-year old Nwaofor, who broke down in tears at Central Criminal Court as he was jailed for seven years.
The notorious fraudster kept a ‘suckers list’ of potential victims sending them bogus letters saying they had won the Australian Lottery. According to reports by UK’s Daily Mail, the Nigerian national made over £5million (N1.5billion) from the scam and blew the money on luxury cars, jewellery and expensive champagne at top nightclubs in London. While the operation lasted, Nwaofor, a father of two, regularly switched addresses to avoid being caught.
Nwaofor was a ‘willing and enthusiastic lieutenant’ to the mastermind of the scam, another Nigerian, Frank Onyechonam, who was nicknamed ‘Fizzy’ for his love of vintage champagne. Onyeachonam was jailed eight years last year, after he was exposed as the chief player in the scam. He drove a Maserati and fired bubbly corks across exclusive private members clubs as he lived a life of fantastic luxury on his victim’s life savings.
The scam started with a bogus letter to a vulnerable pensioner telling them they had won the Australian Lottery. The letters were sent by a ‘lottery agent’ targeting mainly American pensioners informing them they had won a life-changing prize and requesting a modest sum to release the funds. Believing they had won, victims were hooked into paying fees to release their ‘winnings’ through an agent who would demand ‘activation fees’ to release their cash. In some cases, dupes set up businesses in an attempt to receive their winnings and became unwitting money mules laundering cash from other victims.
One victim, a 76-year-old woman, who believed she had won $1.85m, tried to track down Nwaofor after the FBI told her she had fallen victim to a scam. She flew to the UK and went to the address she had for Nwaofor, but found that he had already moved on to another address.
Police identified 406 victims from two notebooks found at Onyeachonam’s Canary Wharf penthouse when he was arrested. They seized Louis Vuitton shoes, Gucci handbags, a collection of expensive watches and dozens of designer shoes, as well as 5,000 pictures of Onyeachonam flaunting his wealth at exclusive up market venues including the Guvnor Bar in Docklands, east London. One picture shows him showering a friend with champagne, in others he poses with scantily clad blondes or waves wads of £50 notes.
There was also evidence of extensive communication with Lagos, Nigeria resident Ese Orogun, nicknamed the ‘chairman’, who is thought to be the global mastermind of the fraud. He lives in a private gated community and described as a ‘celebrity’ in the Nigerian capital and drives multiple supercars, including a Maserati and a Porsche. Detectives fear the scale of the fraud could even mushroom to £30million if all the details discovered in notebooks and emails can be traced to victims.
Nwaofor moved to the UK in January 2006 from Nigeria and soon married a German citizen. He has two children with her, aged six and six-months-old. He broke down in tears as he was jailed for seven years Thursday morning, but the judge said he did not believe the remorse was genuine. “Just as a crocodile sheds its tears while devouring its prey, so the copious weeping in court is not hypocritical remorse but tears of frustration that in spite of your careful concealment, you have been well and truly rumbled,” the judge told him. “This Australian lottery scam has brought penury and debt to your victims who were ruthlessly milked of their hard earned savings.” The judge said although ten victims were traced by prosecutors as having fallen for Nwaofor’s scam, that was probably the ‘tip of the iceberg’. “Vast sums of cash you used to fund a luxury lifestyle, with top of the range hire cars, large watches, gold jewellery, expensive nightclubs shows you made the best part of £1m yourself,” said the judge.
Nwaofor, of Camberell Green, south London, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, converting criminal property, and acquisition of criminal property. He will serve half his sentence in prison and the remaining part on licence and will also now face confiscation proceeds. Onyeachonam, of Canning Town, east London, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud between January 2005 and December 2012.