The Special Fraud Unit (SFU) recently apprehended two suspects Chinedu Ezeona and Emmanuel Eze in connection with obtaining money under false pretences. According to the police, the duo had defrauded the victim in a visa scam under the pretext of being a member of staff of the American Embassy.
Speaking to THISDAY at the SFU office, Milverton, Ikoyi, Lagos, the CP SFU, CP Tunde Ogunsakin said the suspects were arrested in a bid to rid the society of fraudsters who prey on innocent and unsuspecting victims. According to him, the duo of Chinedu Ezeona and Emmanuel Eze specialise in defrauding innocent Nigerians who are desperate to travel to the United States of America. A manhunt for the duo was mounted upon a petition dated April 27 by one of the alleged victims simply identified as Madam Elsie.
In her petition, the victim’s daughter said she was introduced to Chinedu by her mother who met him at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) stand in Enugu. She said the suspect claimed to be a staff of the United States Embassy in Nigeria and offered to assist her in procuring an American Visa.
Without much ado, the victim was said to have sold the idea to her husband who then agreed and contributed financially to acquire the visa. They said the sum of $15, 615 were gathered and given to Chinedu to procure the visa as agreed. Their suspicions were aroused when he kept on demanding for more money. The CP said upon his arrest and questioning, the 41-year-old native of Umunze in Anambra State admitted collecting the money but said he gave it to one Fatai who is currently at large.
Ogunsakin said during the course of investigation, it was discovered that the principal suspect, Chinedu also operated under the pseudo name; David Obiora Aniekwe. At this juncture, Chinedu’s fake complimentary card was brought out. The card identified him as a Senior System Analyst, Visa Section of the American Embassy. However, Chinedu categorically denied that the card belonged to him.
According to him, anyone could have gone to a printing press and forged a complimentary card. To buttress his innocence in the card issue, he dared the police officers to show his signature at the back of the card. He was soon to keep quiet when he was asked why the card bore his phone numbers.
Speaking to THISDAY, Chinedu said his arrest was just a pure case of a woman scorned. According to him, he had met 65-year-old Madam Elsie at a political rally in Udi in Enugu State. A meeting that allegedly signaled the beginning of a love affair that started in November last year. He said their relationship was all lovey-dovey until she found out that he had another girlfriend whom he had plans to marry. Narrating his story he said: “I met Elsie last year and along the line I told her about my desire to travel abroad and she decided to sponsor my trip.
“Having agreed to my desire, she sent money to one agent Fatai to help me process my travel documents and visa. I cannot really calculate the exact total of the money given to me because sometimes she sent the money through my driver Eze.
“Our relationship blossomed until she found out that I had another girlfriend. It was then she threatened to deal with me. She said I should return all the gifts she had given me during the course of our relationship. After a time, she called me back that we should resolve our issue and I agreed. She then told me to send my driver Eze to collect more money for the visa. However when he went there, the police arrested him and subsequently me.” Chinedu said it was then his woes began.
He added: When I was locked up, I begged her that we should resolve our issues. Because of my political aspirations, I did not want the matter to escalate and we agreed that we would pay N1million first and then pay up the rest latter. All I know is that I did not cheat her rather she is acting up because of my other girlfriend.”
The CP also said further investigation by the police fingered 29-year-old Eze, a native of Abakpa, Nike in Enugu State. According to him, Chinedu had sent Eze to collect the money from the complainant. Asides that, he said most of the payments were done through Eze’s account. However Eze denied the allegation, claiming that he was just a messenger and never connived with Chinedu to defraud the woman.
However, the case developed a twist last Monday, May 7 as three other persons were also arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe the investigation police officer in the matter with N1million. However, the suspects debunked the claims.
According to the CP, the trio comprising of two businessmen and a youth corps member had stormed the station with the sum of N1million to bribe the IPO in releasing Chinedu and Eze. Two of the suspects were identified as Ofodeme Sylvester and Uzodimma Emeka while the identity of the corps member was not disclosed. Speaking to THISDAY, 36-year-old engineer, Ofodeme Sylvester, said he does not know Chinedu and Eze from Adam. A fact corroborated by Chinedu and Eze.
According to him, he was only sent by one Mr. Charles Ibeh of Real Profile Oil and Gas at Victoria Island to deliver the money to the IPO as part of precondition to the suspect’s bail. Maintaining his innocence, Ofodeme said he never gave anyone bribe rather he was sent to secure the suspect’s bail with the money as agreed by the suspect and the victim.
He said: “I really do not know why I am being held here. I am just a messenger sent to deliver the money that would meet Chinedu’s bail conditions. In fact before today, I had come to the SFU before to know the conditions of the bail terms.
“I was told that before Chinedu will be released he would offset the money he took from the victim and they both agreed to that. He was told to raise the sum of N1million first to at least assuage the victim and that was the money I brought to the SFU. I do not know where the bribe is coming from.”
Also speaking to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, the 26-year-old corps member maintained his innocence too. Wearing a sad look, the corps member said he could not understand why he was arrested.
He said he was just by his Boss, the same Mr. Charles Ibe to meet the IPO to collect 10 per cent (N100,000) of the N1million brought by Ofodeme and Uzodimma. He said his boss never explained to him rather he was sent to collect money only to be arrested for an offence he knows nothing about.
The CP advised members of the public to avoid showing desperation when trying to procure visa as fraudsters are out there looking for them. He urged them to procure their visas from the appropriate embassies rather than patronizing touts and agencies.
He also commended the IPO whom he said overcame the temptation of taking the N1million bribe from the suspect’s relations. He said: “The action of the IPO shows that there are good elements in the force and the signal it sends is that it is no longer business as usual for deviants who think they can bribe their way through.”