By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
About two years ago, you hardly could go to any cyber café in Benin-City and get space to work. And each time you get space, there was always a drama from the guy next to you, who will suddenly receive a call and start speaking the Queen’s English as if he is a Briton. He will speak confidently about a contract that never existed. You will immediately observe that he was speaking to an American or a European.
After the conversation, he will go back to his seat and start speaking his normal Pidgin English with his other partners in the job. You needed not to be told that the guy was an internet fraudster, trying to convince an American or a European to send dollars or pounds as payment for a fake contract.
But when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) beamed their search light on the activities of internet fraudsters in Edo State, mounting surveillance on cyber cafés, these guys changed their mode of operation. Rather than use facilities at the internet café in town, they now have their laptops and operate in hidden buildings, where it will be difficult for security agents to nab them.
However, luck ran out on twenty suspected internet fraudsters in Benin-City when men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) attached to the 4th Brigade, Benin-City arrested them in an old building located on Siluko Road. The suspects were arrested following survelliance on a concealed cyber office in an old building. Men of the JTF stormed the house in a surprise raid and arrested the suspects.
After the arrest, the JTF handed them over to the EFCC for further interrogation. Sunday Vanguard learnt that the suspects confessed that American and European widows were among their victims. According to a statement from the Head, Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, “at the point of arrest, the suspected fraudsters had in their possession forty five laptops of different make, twenty eight telephones, eight internet mobile modems and one Nissan car with registration number, Edo State, USL 375 AG.
“The suspects, mostly in their twenties include Idehen Obabueki, Adesa Lucky, Usuagu Uche, Eloghosa Olikiab
or, Larry Edomwonyi, Amowie Maike, Francis Ezegbede, Itua Samuel, Endurance John Egbeifo, Amego Ovenseri, Iyen Ighodaro, Philip Agbodori, Lucky Robinson, Nnadi Obinna, Osabuohien Osahon, Chinenu Eze, Peter Sunday, Solomon Ogu, Niyi Femi and Osaigie Aghedo.
The suspects have reportedly made statements leading to further investigation. Most of them were said to have confessed to be engaged in online dating of American and European particularly widows. They also confessed to using pseudo names and faces to deceive their prospective victims.
Nine of the suspects were arraigned before a Federal High Court in Benin-City. They pleaded not guilty to the crime. They were arraigned before Justice A. M Liman of the Federal High Court 1, Benin-City on the charge bordering on conspiracy to commit felony to wit: obtaining money under false pretence. They pleaded not guilty.
The charge read: “That you Osaugwu Uchenna Kingsley (alias Sam Henric), Robinson Lucky (alias Justin Parker), Larry Edomwonyi (alias Mark Erixson), Amovie Mike (alias Jeffery Ares), Itua Samuel Robinson (alias Park Wetty, King Harry), Iyen Oghodaro Destiny, Adesa Lucky Rute ( alias Peter Anderson, Eric Stern etc), Egbeifo John Endurance and Egbeniyi Oluwafemi ( alias Raymond Morrison, Mavis Mar) at No. 56 Siluko Road , Benin City within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire with one Dennis Osagie and others now at large to commit felony to wit: obtaining money under false pretence and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act”.
Justice Liman granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N1million each and two sureties in like sum. One of the sureties must be a civil servant and the other must own a landed property within the jurisdiction of court. The judge ordered that the suspects be remanded in prison custody and adjourned to 4th, 13th and 19th of March respectively.