By Evelyn Usman
…Suspect lures victims with Jonathan, Obasanjo, Dangote’s fake pictures…
Everyday, hotels receive guests of different sorts, some with genuine business and personal purposes and others with criminal intentions. It is, however, difficult to differentiate between guests who visit in exotic cars, with lots of money to dole out in the course of their stay, from the genuine ones .
Remember Cynthia Osokogu? The only daughter of a retired general who was lured on facebook from Nasarawa to Lagos, only to be murdered by her supposed friends? That incident happened in a hotel around Amuwo Odofin local government area of Lagos.
Remember also the case of a bureau de-change operator in Apapa, Lagos who was murdered by his customer ? The dastardly act also occurred in an hotel.
The list of violent crimes in hotels is endless. But the commonest is its use by fraudsters, otherwise known as 419, to swindle gullible Nigerians as well as foreigners, a development that seems to have defied security strategies.
The police said they were putting everything in place to checkmate, in particular fraudsters who defraud foreigners.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of Special Fraud Unit, Mr Tunde Ogunsaki, disclosed during the foundation laying ceremony of a two-storey building named after former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Commassie, at the SFU, that the Unit was working with INTERPOL, the world’s international police organisation with 190-member countries, in order to meet the growing challenges of fighting such crimes.
But while the Unit is beaming its search light outside the shores of the country, Nigerians at home are battling 419 kingpins using hotels as hideouts.
Recently, a former senatorial aspirant (names withheld) was arrested at the popular Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja by the State Security Service( SSS) in connection with advance fee fraud..
The hotel, according to SSS, was the meeting point between him and his gullible vitims.
As if that was not enough, the suspect, as revealed by the SSS, impersonated the Director of Operations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,(EFCC), one Olaolu Adegbite, to deceive his victims.
He reportedly attempted to swindle the wife of Abia State governor, Mrs Mercy Orji, by posing as the EFCC Director investigating Mrs Orji on false financial allegations.
Parading him before newsmen, SSS Director, Lagos State Command, Mr Ben Achu-Olayi, said the suspect had a fake EFCC identity card with which he deceived his victims.
“Acting on intelligence report received from Abia State that one suspected fraudster was impersonating Adegbite to defraud the first lady, we trailed and successfully tracked and arrested him at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja on January 27, 2013. At the hotel, he was negotiating with his would be victims and was in possession of an identity card showing his picture with the name E. Adegbite, Director of Operations, EFCC and the commission’s logo on the card.
“The suspect confessed that he collaborated with one Nelson Ndukwe and one Chief Okafor, who are presently at large, to defraud Mrs. Orji through blackmail on the pretext that she was being investigated for financial impropriety”, Achu-Olayi stated, adding that the suspect would be handed over to the EFCC for further investigations while the hunt for the other suspects continued.
Another arrested in a hotel
Also arrested by the SSS was a 35-year-old man identified as Dannison Onwuka. He was arrested at Camelot Hotel, Victoria Island, with 1. 5 million fake dollars..
He was said to have lured one Livinus Yakubu , a Nigerian based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, to Lagos, Nigeria, to invest in a $7 million real estate business, belonging to one Mike Adenuga.
The Lagos SSS boss said: “ We received a report by Yakubu, on January 5, 2013, that Onwuka, a purported agent of Adenuga, planned to invest $7m in real estate. Onwuka, having met Yakubu in Dubai recently, invited him to Nigeria to participate in the business transaction. Instead of proceeding with the business, Onwuka introduced the issue of $3.5m which was stamped all over. He told Yakubu that he needed $30,000 to purchase chemicals to wash the money which would erase all the stamps and the money would be spendable.”
The command, he said , encouraged Yakubu to play along, while its men put the suspect under surveillance.
“ He was placed under close surveillance at Camelot Hotel, Victoria Island, where he was scheduled to collect the $30,000. Right there, he was arrested with fake money to the tune of $1.5m”, the SSS boss said.
Achu-Olayi further disclosed that during investigation a search was conducted at Onwuka’s chalet at Travel House Hotel, Ajah, where fake different government documents and 12 fake internet super-imposed pictures of the suspect in the midst of eminent Nigerians and documents purportedly signed by President Goodluck Jonathan were discovered.
“Investigation has revealed that Onwuka is an international fraudster who specialized in the act of forging signatures of top government officials. Also, he engaged in superimposing his photograph among dignitaries to portray himself as a member of the inner-caucus of President Jonathan as well as a close ally of prominent business moguls in the country.
He has used such gimmicks to lure in his victims. The worst is that the suspect super-imposed several pictures where he was with President Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential office”.