Detectives attached to the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos State, had a good laugh after a young man walked into their police station and claimed that his friend was a kidnapper and fraudster. The laughter, however, started after police discovered that the complainant was also a fraudster, whose friend duped of money defrauded from an American.
The complainant, Henry Simon, 38, wanted the police to arrest his partner, Kenneth Okogba 31, alias
Biggie, for disappearing with the money conned from the American via the Internet. His complaint led to the smashing of the syndicate, arrest of seven suspects, including Simon. It became clear he didn’t think his plan through.
Angry over his arrest, Simon insisted that defrauding people via the Internet was not a crime. He spat:
“Yahoo-yahoo is just a creative means of making money. Police should release me; I’m not a criminal. I shouldn’t be treated as one!”
Simon took the crazy steps to the police station, after he conned $7090, equivalent of N2,2546,20, from an American named Mr. Sesebegude via Internet. He told Okogba to go to the bank and pick the money. The money was to be shared 70-30, between Simon and Okogba. Simon, who is the ‘catcher,’ would collect 70 percent, Okogba, the picker, would sail home with 30 percent.
The deal, however, went awry after Okogba got greedy. Okogba picked the money and bolted. After several frustrating attempts to get his share of the money failed, Simon went to the SCID, to lodge a complaint against Okogba, forgetting he too was culpable.
Okogba, 31, confessed to have duped people through Facebook, by promoting none existing lotto. Okogba, who hails from Delta State, said he was an ex-convict. He said: “I was arrested by detectives attached to Ajah Police Station for defrauding an European through Facebook lotto. People call it ‘Yahooyahoo’.” Okogba initially said he was falsely accused by the police, but changed the lyrics of his song after he noticed other members of the syndicate singing like birds.
The waterloo of the syndicate started after Okogba and Simon had a fall out. Simon, a graduate from Ebonyi State University, said he and Okogba have been friends since undergraduate days. Simon, who hails from Delta State and resides in Ajah area of Lagos, said he ventured into cybercrime (yahooyahoo), after he moved to Lagos in 2006.
Simon added: “I have been in this business since 2006. This is the only way I fend for my family. It’s better than to engage in crimes like stealing or kidnapping. Since I started, I have been getting few coins like $100 or $200, which I have been using to cloth myself. But this particular money, which I got from my client, Mr. Sesebegude, an American citizen, was my ultimate breakthrough. The money was $7090, equivalent of N2, 2546, 20.
“Biggie was the picker; that’s the person who gets the money from the bank. But since he picked the money, he has not given me my share, which was 70 percent of the total money. I met Biggie several times to give me my share, but he always threatened me. I got frustrated and reported him to the police at SCID, Panti. I went with a copy of the payment slip, which affirmed that Biggie received the money.”
Simon said that he also needed to lie, in order to get police to act fast in arresting Okogba, so he told police that his friend was also a kidnapper. His words: “I told the police that Biggie was a kidnapper, so that they would arrest him as soon as possible. I knew I told a lie, but Biggie is an ex-convict. He has served his jail term. I don’t know the crime he committed that made him to go to jail.”
Simon went further to say that prior to Okogba’s arrest; five other suspected fraudsters were arrested in Okogba’s apartment.
The police also recovered 1000 unused SIM cards, three laptops, wraps of Indian hemp and mobile phones. Two laptops were recovered from Simon’s house, which he claimed were used by him and his brother, Anthony.
Another suspect, Chris Mgbako, 39, a farmer at Delta State, described himself as a friend to Okogba. He said he came to Lagos, to deliver foodstuffs to his family and decided to visit his friend, Okogba. He was arrested in Okogba’s house.
Mgbako said: “I knew Biggie through my friend, Steven. We are childhood friends. We started our friendship right from Asaba. I came to Lagos to give my sisters foodstuffs and to celebrate the fact that I just got a new phone. I got the phone from my younger sister last month. She lives overseas. I was to stay in Lagos for two weeks before going back to Asaba. I decided to visit Biggie since I would soon be going back. I’m not familiar with Lagos roads. I was given directions. When I met Biggie, he gave me one of his laptops and asked me to chat with somebody. I told him I wasn’t used to all this Internet applications.”
Mgbako went further to reveal how Okogba operated the cybercrime. He narrated: “When I told Biggie I had no idea how to carry out the operation, he said it was easy. He said one just needed to get a new SIM card, which has not been registered and insert it into a phone, which has no Internet facility. He said that Facebook would send a code to the phone; the code would be used to open a Facebook account, where one could chat with Europeans. I never for once tried this.
I was arrested while waiting to receive alert from my family. I’m the eldest son in my family and in charge of eight shops in Asaba. I was waiting to receive a bank alert, so I could return home, when police arrested me. The police came to Biggie’s house and arrested me along with Steven. I’m the secretary to the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) ward, back home. I’m supposed to be at home by now.”
Another suspect, Mr. Steven Owuamakunam, a primary school teacher, also from Delta State, said he was innocent of any crime. He said his only crime, was being friends with Okogba. He said he and Okogba have been friends since childhood. According to him, he came to spend the holiday with Okogba and was already preparing to go back to Asaba, since school was resuming, when he was arrested.
He said: “I didn’t know Biggie used to engage in cybercrime. He had never discussed such with me or even asked me to join. I have already packed my bags, ready to leave on Sunday, when police came. I don’t know what transpired between Biggie and Simon. When I saw Simon, I begged him to tell the police that I was innocent, but Simon said he would implicate me because I ate food in Biggie’s house.”
Michael Eze, 35 and Anthony Eze, younger brothers to Simon, claimed to be innocent too. Like others, they were arrested in Okogba’s home. Okogba said: “The people I defraud are usually Europeans who are in need of money. What I do is to upload a lotto site and Europeans would play in order to win some money. They have to deposit an amount in other to win the grand price. Some pay $800 in order to win $1000 and so on.”