LAGOS — Operatives of the Special Fraud Unit, SFU, Ikoyi, Lagos have smashed a syndicate which specialised in defrauding members of the public by sending congratulatory text messages for winning jackpots in non-existent promos.
The syndicate’s victim that led to their arrest is a 73-year-old retiree of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, identified simply as Pa Steven, a United States of America returnee, who was reportedly swindled of N10 million.
The unit’s spokesman, Ngozi Nsiotume-Agun, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, said a suspected member of the syndicate, Philip Ikechukwu Orji, was arrested at the verge of withdrawing an amount paid into his account by the victim.
The victim in a petition to the unit, explained that he received a text message supposedly from Airtel on September 16, 2011 that he had wonN2 million for using up to N200 in two weeks in its ongoing promo, with batch number A17.
According to Pa Steven, “I was given a telephone number 08088664395 to speak with one Mr. Femi Adams who they introduced as a staff of Airtel. I called Femi and he said that he was the officer in-charge of the promo and that I should forward my personal data to that number.
“I asked what he meant by personal data and he explained that he was referring to my name, address, state of origin, bank and profession.
“I sent those information to the number and the next day, I received a message requesting me to send the name of the bank where the money would be deposited.
“Later, they requested that I should call one, Mr. Ken Eze who is the account officer on 08132956960. I immediately called the man who said I was expected to pay 4.8 per cent of the amount that I won as Charge on Turnover, COT.
“I paid the amount into account number 0033313251 belonging to one Eghobamen Agnes in Festac branch of the bank as requested.”
Shortly after the payment, he said he received another congratulatory message that his name had been listed on the final list and that he would receive a voucher that serves as his ticket into a gala night organised for the award.
Pa Steven was, however, disappointed as Femi reportedly contacted him to say the gala night had been postponed, explaining that Airtel had expanded it to a national mega promo and that he had an automatic ticket to participate in the draw as a promo winner. He demanded a recharge card to make necessary contacts to ensure the purported voucher was intact.
Not satisfied, the syndicate reportedly contacted Pa Steven, informing him that he had won another N350 million in the ‘Airtel at 10 Club’ .
He said: “This was on June 16, 2013. Femi said I should contact one Mr. Tunde Alabi at the Airtel head office on 08089932304 for further details.
“When contacted, Tunde Alabi told me that Airtel had selected two banks to handle its payments to various beneficiaries and advised me to keep in touch with the account officer on 07065947835.
“To be sure that I was still relating with the right persons, I called Femi and he told me that I would be expected to pay N2 million as functional fee.
“I called the supposed account officer who confirmed what Femi told me. She introduced herself as Mbamalu Nnenna Ruth and forwarded her FirstBank account number as 3040173040, requesting that I should pay N2 million.
“I went a borrowing because I knew that with N350 million, I do not need to rely on pension for the rest of my life.
“Few days after I made the payment, I received a text message purportedly from Guarantee Trust Bank reminding me that I was yet to come and claim my money. I called Femi who advised me to contact my account officer who requested that I should pay another N3 million into the account 0051886627 which belongs to one Ikechukwu Orji.
“They kept demanding for one fee or the other and Femi who claimed to be a staff of Airtel confirmed each transaction.”
Pa Steven said he became suspicious after a year without any payment into his account.
Ikechukwu used forged document, identity
But on further investigation, operatives discovered that Ikechukwu (22) used forged document and identity to open the account.
Nsiotume-Agun said: “Initially, he claimed that he was an orphan and was at the mercy of friends who deceived him into allowing them use his account for fraud.
“His true identity was later revealed when his mother who is a pastor called the police station demanding to speak with her son, Phillip.
“We are also interrogating the bank officials to find out why Ikechukwu was allowed to operate an account with false document.”
Asked why, Ikechukwu replied: “I was advised to close my account with GTB and open another one with any other bank. I simply opened a savings account with the name Ikechukwu Okafor. I was able to get fake identity card, PHCN bill and an address that cannot be traced. Nobody called to confirm the information, so I started using the account for my transactions. I am terribly sorry especially to my parents.”