Court jails Nigerian 376 years for duping American
By Mustapha Ogunsakin and Iretiola Owoola
NEMESIS at the weekend caught up with a 32-year old Nigerian, Mr. Harrison Odiawa. He was sentenced to 376 years imprisonment without an option of fine for defrauding an American, Mr. George Robert Blick.
In addition to the jail term, the court asked Odiawa to refund £10,000 and $2,092,894 to Blick as restitution.
Odiawa was arraigned before Justice Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja Judicial Division on January 10, 2005 on a 54-count charge of advance fee fraud, obtaining by false pretence, conspiracy and forgery. The charges were later amended to 58.
Blick is currently serving a 30-month jail term in the United States (US) on account of his being defrauded by Odiawa.
In his evidence before the court, the American stated that on March 21, 2003, he received an e-mail on his computer from a person in Nigeria by the name of Taye Owo, soliciting a foreign contractor to facilitate the transfer of $20.5 million out of Nigeria.
The money, according to Blick, was to be facilitated in Nigeria by a group known as the contact review panel.
Blick, former Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Integration Corporation and Quest Incorporation Exploration and Development Incorporated responded positively to this e-mail in his reply, adding that he had a United States-registered corporation that could be used to receive the funds.
On March 25, 2003, Blick continued, he received another e-mail from a person who called himself Abu Belgore, the chairman of the contract review panel who gave him further details on the transaction, the roles he was expected to play and further outlined the modalities for the payment.
He was further given an outline of a document to be put on the letterhead of his company and write a requisite letter to the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health.
Blick stated that he complied with the instruction and forwarded the letter to a fax number provided by Abu Belgore.
Two days after, precisely on March 27, 2003, Blick said he received an e-mail from Belgore stating that his claims had been approved by the Federal Ministry of Health and that the Debt Management Department would now be responsible for processing payment of funds, using some documents that he (Belgore) would create.
The document included a certificate of incorporation of Quest Incorporated (Blick's American Company) with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAL) in Nigeria; a fax clearance, and a job completion certificate.
At this point, Belgore stressed the need for absolute confidentiality between the two of them and they both signed a confidentiality agreement, which they exchanged by fax.
Now confident that he was on the way to making stress-free U.S. dollars, Blick told the Nigerian partner - Belgore, that he would prefer to receive the payment of the $ 20.5 million in London upon which Belgore linked him with one Dr. Tunde Oni, the chairman of the Foreign Debt Payment in London.
After a series of contract documents had been sent to him, he received a fax message from Oni in London on April 1 scheduling a meeting in London for April 3 to release the funds.
The following day, April 2, 2003, Blick left for London where he hoped to receive $20.5 million. In London, he lodged at a hotel near the Nigerian embassy. After settling down, he called Belgore in Nigeria. Belgore told him that his executive assistant, one Mr. Desmond Okoro, would join him from Nigeria to witness the release of the funds.
Blick also called Oni who told him that he would need £10,000 for his agent to open a bank account, and another $18,750.00 as a trust processing fee when the money transaction took place.
Blick, who came to London with only £10,000, had to stop around London with his credit cards to raise another £20,000 to meet these demands.
From this moment on, Blick was in the net of the fraudsters and they milked and milked him until he started selling his personal property and dipping his hand into the account of the company he co-owned with his partners in America.
First, they showed him an aluminium strong box, which he thought contained the money. They also opened it and showed him two bundles, which he confirmed were genuine. They could not, however, pay him because one document - International Clearance and Policy Certificate (ICP) number was not available. It had to come from Nigeria, so the payment was cancelled.
Next, he was informed on April 7, 2003 that a sum of $ 410, 000 was required before the ICP could be issued. He paid $195,000 as his own share. Belgore was to pay the rest.
On April 10, Oni called him from London to say that the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) had petitioned the President against the payment. Oni requested the sum of $750,000 to settle the members of NUC. Out of this, Blick paid $250,000.
And it went on and on until he had paid $2,092,894 million. By this time, his partners had got worried and reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who investigated the fraud. It was FBI that now opened his eyes that he had fallen for Nigerian tricksters.
On January 10, 2004, he was indicted by a U.S. grand jury and charged with numerous counts of wire fraud and with conspiracy to defraud the Nigerian government. In September 17, he was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and reported in prison on March 2, 2005.
It was the FBI that now alerted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that now facilitated the arrest of Odiawa, alias Abu Belgore, the man behind the fraud.
In passing the sentence, Justice Oyewole said: "It is unfortunate that the accused early in life chose to embark on the fast track of financial crime. Cognisance must be taken of the predicament of PWI (Blick), the victim who not only lost all he had but is presently serving prison terms in his native USA. The incalculable damage this has done to the image of his country cannot be estimated.
"For this genre of crimes, the court considers that justice is not only served by terms of imprisonment but by restitution to the victims as well."
He thereafter sentenced him to 376 years imprisonment and a refund of all the monies he duped the American.
The check is in the mail... .