Tuesday, September 15, 2020 4:06 pm
That the hand of the law nabs scam artists does not seem to deter other scammers from swindling more victims
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
When criminals are caught and sent to the guillotine or have their extremities chopped off, this tends to deter or send chills down their spines. In fact, petty thieves fear(ed) the Saudi’s Saracen sword. This has been the situation from the days of Hammurabi of the First Babylonian dynasty or Moses the Hebrew or Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia.
Not any longer! In Nigeria, especially, on the turf of cyber criminals, the more law enforcement officials catch and deal with them, the more daring they become and the bigger the number of their victims. This is to say that nemesis is no longer a deterrent, a situation that may soon become a subject of Psychological research.
As Nigerians still groan over the bad image created by Hushpuppi and his co-travelers in wire scams, five citizens of the country, one of them resident in Canada, have landed in the soup over fraud. One of them, 50-year old Harry Cole or Akintomide Ayoola Bolu, or John King, or Big Bro, or Egbon! was, on Thusday, 20 August, extradited from Canada to the United States. According to a report by the US Department of Justice, he and his accomplices are to face federal charges for their alleged role in a fraudulent “sweepstakes” scheme with an intended loss in excess of $300 million.
The scammers: Akintola Akinmadeyemi; Austin residents Joel Calvin and Clarence Barefield (aka CJ); Mesquite, TX, resident Donna Lundy; Nigerian citizens and Canadian residents Emmanuel Olawale Ajayi (aka Wale, aka Walata), Tony Dada Akinbobola (aka Lawrence D Awoniyi, aka Boss Tony, aka Toyin) and Bolaji Akinwunmi Oyewole (aka BJ, aka Beejay).
Their Modus Operandi
According to US Justice Department, the defendants carried out their sweepstakes scheme from 2012 to 2016. “Cole allegedly purchased lists from Lundy of elderly potential victims and their addresses. He and other conspirators based in the Toronto, Ontario Canada metropolitan area sent packages containing fraudulent sweepstakes information to conspirators residing in the U.S. The packages contained thousands of mailers, which U.S.-based conspirators sent to victims notifying them that they had won a sweepstakes. Each mailer included a fraudulent check issued in the name of the victim, usually in the amount of $8,000, and a pre-addressed envelope. Victims were instructed to deposit the check into their bank account, immediately withdraw between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars in cash or money orders and send the money to a “sweepstakes representative” to facilitate the victim collecting his or her prize. By the time the victim was notified by the bank that the deposited check was fraudulent, the cash or money order had been sent by the victim and received by the defendants or conspirators. The intended loss from this scheme was over $300 million, with an actual loss of more than $900,000.”
Worse still, the Cyber Crime Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, INTERPOL, National Central Bureau, Abuja arrested two suspects for their complicity in a major multi-million Euro scam touching on procurement of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The suspects, Babatunde Adesanya a.k.a Teddy, 50years old Master degree holder in Cell Biology and Akinpelu Hassan Abass, 41, the M.D Musterpoint Investment Nig. Ltd, who are members of a sophisticated transnational criminal network, cloned the corporate website of ILBN Holdings BV, Holland to transact with and defraud one Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn, a representative of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The arrest, of the suspects, according to a statement from Police Force Headquarter, Abuja, was sequel to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) received by the Bureau from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice conveying a request from the German Government for investigations into a fraudulent transaction on the procurement of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment linked to a Nigerian-based Bank Account.
Discrete investigations by INTERPOL Nigeria revealed that the suspects and their Holland-based cohorts, one Eduardus Boomstra and Geradius Maulder specialized in identity theft, cyber-stalking, cloning of corporate websites amongst other cyber criminals to defraud unsuspecting members of the public across the world. In this instance, the suspects fraudulently obtained from Mr Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn the sum of 1.5m Euro and another 880,000 Euro as advanced payment for the supply of COVID-19 PPEs valued at 14.7million Euros. Disturbed by the non-arrival of the PPEs, Mr Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn eventually visited the corporate office of ILBN Holdings BV in Holland to inquire reasons for the delay in supplying the items only to find out that the company never did business with him and that the transaction was a scam.
The fraudsters merely cloned the company’s website and falsely presented themselves as representatives of the company before subsequently executing the fraudulent transaction. Consequently, he reported the case of fraud to the Police in Holland and this led to the arrest of Eduardus Boomstra and Geradius Maulder in Holland and investigations extended to Nigeria.
Investigation by INTERPOL Nigeria further revealed that Babatunde Adesanya received 498,000 Euro from Eduardus Boomstra and Geradius Maulder through his Citibank London account and transferred same to an account number domiciled with a Lagos branch of a leading commercial bank in Nigeria belonging to Musterpoint Investment Nig. Ltd.
In August 2019, Obinwanne George Okeke, aka Invictus Obi, was arrested in Virginia by the FBI over an alleged $11 million fraud. Three weeks later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 14 Nigerians and indicted 57 others for over $6 million scam. This is money they collected from companies and old people through romance scams.
Just this June, the Dubai Police, in conjunction with the FBI, arrested Ramoni Olorunwa/Igbalode Abbas, aka “Hushpuppi” and one Olalekan Jacob Ponle, aka Woodberry. Along with 10 other suspects, they are being held for allegations of fraud bordering on millions of dollars and almost two million victims.
Emmanuel Nwude, a former Director of Union Bank of Nigeria, between 1995 and 1998, defrauded Nelson Sakaguchi, a Director at Brazil’s Banco Noroeste, Sao Paulo, of the sum of $242 million. Pretending to be Paul Ogwuma, former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Nwude convinced Sakaguchi to invest in a “proposed” Abuja airport scheme, with an assurance of a commission totaling $10 million. He fell victim of Nwude’s fraud and his bank went under in 2001.
Why are scam artists no longer deterred by the fact many among them land in Police net and even end up in jail? Professor Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria and President, Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation, a Distinguished Non-Resident Fellow and Senior Fellow, Council on Emerging Market Enterprises, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University Massachusetts, USA, explained why in an exclusive interview with TheNEWS.
In his words: “Nigeria lacks a national worldview, a sense of shared purpose and destiny. One of the core elements of a worldview is a value system that is constantly inculcated into generations of children and youth and they grow up with it. We need leaders that can operate at this level of intellect and philosophy. That’s how other prosperous societies achieved prosperity. If we think we can be any different and make progress we are deceiving ourselves. Our country has experienced a complete breakdown of its value systems over the past 40 years.
Can Nigeria still get its value system back, especially among the younger generation? The magazine asked him:
“It’s possible, if we can have the right people at the top who can be good role models for the younger generation,” said he.
While many lay the blame on religious and traditional leaders who give honour to and collect money from upstarts without questioning the source of the wealth, others accuse parents.
In fact, Adeola Agoro, journalist, writer, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, explained in a piece, entitled,
Dangers in The Rise of Yahoo Investor Mums
“A mother chose to buy a very good phone with the right apps for her son against buying him JAMB forms. Her reasoning is that with the right prayers, he can make it much easier in his newly ‘learnt’ Yahoo business than through education.
Another mother takes gifts to the DPO of her town so that his officers wouldn’t be disturbing hers son’s Yahoo business.
Many youths have dumped agriculture because it is tedious and not as lucrative as Yahoi-Yahoo. Their mothers are encouraging them in many ways (prayers, physical involvement and other stuff) to dupe people. They can’t wait for their children to start riding big cars and building houses.
While we may say it is not our business what these people do with thier lives, it is important to know what they do with the lives of others. And I’m not talking about the people they render useless after duping them. I’m talking about you and I.
What happens when maga does not pay? What happens when they can’t hack into accounts?
They get desperate. They have to introduce more potent means to getting their ways. And that is when they go in search of more dangerous juju men and pastors and imams who tell them they need humans parts and blood to make it.
The sad part of the story is that only one out of every hundred Yahoo boys will be ‘lucky’ to succeed in his bad game. The moment he hits ‘gold’ words will go round because the first thing he will do is buy a car, gather friends to buy drinks for them and he will have body guards out of his friends.
The mother who has spent money buying phones and data for her son or the one who has done local insurance to speed up her child’s luck in the game would get frustrated and try to do ‘anything’ to guarantee luck. What that means is that nobody is safe.
I’m particularly scared because I know the high population of mothers investing in their children to become Yahoo-Yahoo boys.
In the next few years, these Yahoo-Yahoo boys would have become men. Some would have gone to prison and come out and become useless. Some would have done so many bad, bad things uncaught. And some will keep trying.
After failing their greedy mothers who will live or die miserably in/out of frustrations and anger, they will find their ways to big towns and cities and try bigger crimes. Their victims? Those who have worked hard to make a success of their lives.
What can we do to stop this trend? Let us reason together.
My name is Alhaja Adeola Agoro, I’m a mother of responsible university graduates who are making efforts to surpass whatever I’ve ever done. I stand against Yahoo-Yahoo investor mothers.
What kind of mother are you?” Agoro asked.
-Ademola Adegbamigbe, Editor of TheNEWS, has been reporting life, politics and economy for over 26 years
An abridged version of this story appears as cover box in the September (hard copy) edition of TheNEWS