By Soni Daniel, Abuja
Collins Samuel, an alleged fraudster who obtained $8000 as Covid-19 benefit from the US state of Virginia, has been convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment by Justice P. Mallong of the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna, Kaduna State.
Another fraudster, Okoh Kingsley Chukwuemeka also bagged two years in prison for fraud.
Samuel had upon arraignment on March 11, 2021 pleaded ‘not guilty’ to a one count charge that borders on impersonation and obtaining by false pretences, brought against him by the Kaduna Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
He was arrested in Jos, Plateau State where he fraudulently represented himself as Ashley Coopper, an American citizen affected by Covid – 19, and obtained $8,000 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) from Virginia, United States.
Investigation revealed that Collins redeemed the $8,000 benefit through bitcoin wallet addresses he got from various cryptocurrency traders.
The charge reads: “That you Collins Samuel sometime in February, 2021 in Jos, Plateau State, within jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did commit an offence to wit; impersonation when you fraudulently held yourself as one Ashley Cooper, a citizen of the United States of America and through that identity you applied and received a total sum of $8,000 from the State of Virginia as ” Pandemic Unemployment Assistance ) with the intent to gain advantage for yourself and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22 (2) (b) (1) & (ii) of the Cyber Crime ( Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015”.
Justice Mallong adjourned the case till March 22, for determination of bail application and trial.
But when the matter was mentioned today, the defendant pleaded guilty to an amended charge, prompting the prosecuting counsel, P. C Onyeneho to ask the court to convict and sentence him accordingly.
Justice Mallong consequently convicted and sentenced the defendant to two years imprisonment with an option of N500,000
The convict is also to forfeit the following items: one Toyota Camry 2010 model car, an HP Elite book 840 Laptop and iPad Model A 1396.
The convict is to pay the sum of $8,000 which is equivalent to N3, 296,696.48 found in his Access Bank Account as restitution to the victim (The State of Viginia) through the United State Embassy, Abuja.
In the same vein, Chukwuemeka who had pleaded ‘not guilty’ to one count charge of impersonation on March 14 when he was first arraigned, changed his plea to ‘guilty’, which prompted EFCC counsel, P.C.Onyeheno to urge the court to convict and sentence him accordingly.
The trial judge convicted and sentenced him to two years imprisonment with an option of N500,000 fine to be paid to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The convict is also to forfeit an Apple iPhone 6S, Dell Laptop model 7240, and a Toyota Camry 2010 model car.
The judge further ordered the convict to pay the sum of $700 as restitution to the victim through the US Embassy, Abuja.