A new scam is in town. Some fraudsters have devised a disingenuous plot to use churches as a bait to deceive unsuspecting fuel marketers into parting with products worth millions of naira.
A Lagos-based oil marketer (name withheld) fell prey to the fraudsters recently and lost 33,000 litres of diesel at a Catholic Church located on Gbaja Street in Surulere, Lagos.
The scammers, posing as the church administrators, invited the oil marketer to supply diesel to the church sometime in November last year.
Not suspecting fraud, the marketer supplied the product on the agreed day. As instructed, she discharged 3,000 litres in a tank in the church, while the remaining 30,000 litres were transloaded into another truck, which was parked outside the church.
The marketer was told to come back to the church in two days when the payment would have been processed. Thinking she was dealing with the church, she agreed.
Two days later, she returned for payment and was queried by the church receptionist for demanding to see any of the church administrators.
She told the receptionist she had supplied diesel to the church and was told to return in two days for payment. It was at that point that the attention of the church leadership was called to the matter.
The clergyman in charge of the church called the marketer into his office, revealing that the said buyers of the petroleum product had written to the church, saying they were coming to thank God for what He had done for them with the donation of 3,000 litres of petroleum product, which the church accepted.
It was the 3,000-litre diesel ‘gift’ that was discharged into the diesel tank in the church, while the scammers made away with 30,000 litres emptied into another tanker parked in front of the church.
At this point, it dawned on the marketer that she had been defrauded.
The Nigerian Xpress approached the church for comments, but the correspondent was informed that the clergyman had travelled for a spiritual exercise.
The oil marketer reported the incident to the police at Man Centre Police Division.
The case, it was further gathered, had been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) Panti, Yaba for further investigation.
Lagos Police Spokesman, CSP Chike Oti, confirmed that the case was being investigated by the SCIID.
Oti said, “The fraudsters used a Catholic Church to perpetrate the evil act. As we know, the Catholic Church is a long standing church. So, they leveraged on the image of the church and lied to be workers. Unknown to the church and the woman, they were lying.
“Arrests have been made and some suspects charged to court already, while our men are on the look out for the remaining suspects.”
A senior officer at SCIID, who wanted to remain anonymous hinted that eight suspects were involved in the criminal act.
He said two had been arrested and charged to court, while six were still at large.
“Investigation into the matter has reached an advanced stage. The clergyman in charge of the church has even paid the victim for the 3,000 litres discharged into a tank in the church, while 19,000 litres was traced to a particular NNPC filling station in the state.
The officer cautioned, “I think this is another strategy being adopted by fraudsters. People need to be careful and also vigilant.”