A 48-year-old man, Uche Njokwu, arrested by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), for defrauding organisations seeking Federal Government contracts, has disclosed that he went into the act after he lost his life savings to fraudsters.
According to Njokwu, he used to be a legitimate businessman in Suleja town, Niger State, before he was duped by fraudsters in 2006.
He said it was in a bid to recover all he had lost, that he also went into the criminal act. He however met his waterloo after he had defrauded a man, whose identity was simply given as Alhaji, of N14 million.
Njokwu who was arrested alongside three other members of his gang, Ifeanyi Chukwu, Nnegbu Rowland and Lucky Paul, said his gang gets their target from the waste bins at Federal Government offices in Abuja, especially the ministries.
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According to a police source, when proposals by business owners and companies are not approved by the ministries, such proposals are trashed after a while. The criminal gang feast on such documents.
They would write to the company or businessman, with a letter headed paper from the Federal Ministry where the document was found and insert a phone belonging to a member of the syndicate which the businessman or company would contact.
In other cases they will call the company or businessman with the phone number found on the business proposal documents.
The source said : “ Several businessmen and companies across the country, fell prey to members of this syndicate and lost millions of naira to their tricks, but they were said to have run into trouble when they defraud the said Alhaji of the said N14 million. Alhaji, had submitted his business proposal for a road construction.
“ A member of the syndicate contacted him claiming he is one of personal assistant of a director in the ministry where the Alhaji submitted his proposal and he was asked to inform the Alhaji that his proposal is been looked into.
“ The fraudsters made the Alhaji believe that if he must get his contract approved, he would have to pay certain amount of money to some top official at the ministry who would have to approve and award the contracts to him.
“ It became clear to Alhaji that he had been defrauded after all the fraudster went on the run and their phone lines were all switched off. A petition was written to Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, alerting him about activities of members of the syndicates.
“ The IGP swiftly deployed his operatives at the IRT, who have a track record of hunting down high-profile criminals, and they launched a manhunt for the members of the syndicates. After weeks of tracking, four members of the syndicate were rounded up. ”
In his confessional statement, Njokwu said it was the set of fraudsters that defrauded him, that lured him into the criminal act. He said he brought in the police and the police couldn’t help and he was left with no option but to join them.
He said: “I reside in Suleja area of Niger State, but I am from Aboh Mbaise, area of Imo State. I am trader, but I became a fraudster after I was defrauded. I was going to Wuse market, Abuja, and someone met and said they wanted to wash money for me at Jabi area of Abuja and that was in 2006.
“ They collected N175,000 which was my business money. When I realized that I have been defrauded and I tried to get back my money, I got the police involved but they couldn’t help. I went peacefully to members of the syndicate and they told me that the only way that I could get my money back is when I join them.
“ They thought me the business and I started duping people using the same method and I travelled to Ghana and I spent five years in Ghana and when I came back, I formed a new syndicate and our target became businessmen and companies looking for government contracts. We sourced information about our victims through waste bins around Federal Ministry Secretariats around Abuja.
“ We caught a lot of victims and duped a lot of them. The case that got me into trouble was that of the N14 million, belonging to Alhaji. We found his proposal for road construction and his phone number was on it. We called him sold the dummy that we were working at the Federal Ministry of Works and his proposal was being considered.
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“ We deceived him into paying us that upfront for the cost of the contract and he fell for it. We all absconded after the money was paid, I didn’t know how the police trailed us and they have closed down my office in Suleja. ”
Explaining why he went into crime, Paul who is 33-years-old, said his late sister got him into the gang. The Delta State born said: “I went into fraud because I was looking for money to start up my hair stylist business and my sister who is late was the person that thought me the job.
“ My sister was a member of the syndicate that duped a lot of people and after her death I took a place in the syndicate. Our method was to call people tell them that we want to give them contracts. We use to get people looking for contracts from the dustbin around federal ministry secretariat. ”