A Nigerian member of an international fraud syndicate has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.
For allegedly tricking an American family into paying him the sum of $3,000 while pretending that he had kidnapped their daughter, a 27-year-old Nigerian man, Mfon Obot Essien, has been sentenced to 28 and half years imprisonment with hard labour.
The Akwa Ibom State born Essien who also went with the pseudonyms, David Morris and Femi James, was arrested in 2013 following a petition written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC by the United States (US) Department of Homeland Security, on his involvement in a criminal organization involved in drug smuggling, money laundering and fraud.
It was gathered that Essien got into trouble after an American girl who had gone to visit her Nigerian boyfriend, in Argentina, and was caught with drugs as she was about leaving the country given to her by the man.
After she was arrested, the boyfriend contacted his gang members in Lagos including Essien, who got in touch with the girl's family, telling them the girl and her boyfriend had kidnapped and demanded for a $7,000 ransom for their release.
The petition read in part:
“A US family whose daughter travelled to Argentina, got a call from her boyfriend claiming that they had both been kidnapped.
The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $7,000, which should be sent through money transfer to their associates in Nigeria with the details “David Morris, 302, Apapa Expressway, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria 23401.
Investigation in the US however revealed that the girl was not kidnapped but was under arrest in Argentina for attempting to smuggle cocaine out of that country after being cajoled to do so by her boyfriend of Nigerian descent.
The US authorities then contacted MoneyGram to issue a false money order for $3,000, as against the $7,000 demanded, to enable the arrest of Morris whenever he showed up to receive the money in Lagos.”
The money transfer alert of the $3,000, was sent to the Essien and he attempted to withdraw on August 2, 2013 at Chevron Lekki Drive branch of Access Bank failed. The following day, he tried to withdraw the money again at the Ikota Branch of the bank, with no success and returned again on August 5, not knowing that a query had been lodged concerning his transaction.
It was at his next attempt on September 5, 2013, at the same branch, that Essien was arrested, not knowing that a trap had been set for him after he had approached the teller in the bank and identified himself as David Morris and asked for his $3,000.
Following Essien's arrest, items recovered from him included a forged drivers’ license with No. KSF08417AA2 bearing the name ‘James Femi’ but with his picture.
EFCC investigations also showed that on July 28, 2013, Essien fraudulently received N237, 537.68 from another American, one Mark Mentor, using a forged drivers’ license with No. FFF14411AB6 bearing the name 'David Morris' but with Essien’s picture as well.
It was also discovered that Essien had received, on different occasions, $460 and $900, from another US Citizen, Dylan Johnson, through MoneyGram.
The EFCC Prosecuting Counsel, Mrs Zainab Ettu, in her address on December 9, 2015, had reportedly told the court that investigations by the Commission showed that Essien belonged to a syndicate of fraudsters.
At his arraignment at a High Court in Igbosere sitting in Lagos, Essien pleaded guilty to a six-count charge of conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence and forgery, and was sentenced to a total of 28 and half years jail term.