Justice Efe Ikponmwonba of the Edo State High Court in Benin City handed down convictions and sentences to 12 individuals involved in internet fraud on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.
The convicted individuals are as follows: Ugboko Constance, Eric Oyinkepreye, Joseph Ogheneovo Azanuwha, Ekuma Austin, Ebireri Emmanuel Oghenenyerhovwo, Onakpofure Augustine, Alaomala Emmanuel Ifechukwude, Emuje Oghenechouwe, Amah Michael, Kabiru Mohammed, Ogizeh Japheth Mudiakevwe, and Chukwuemeka Emmanuel.
Their journey to incarceration began with their apprehension by operatives of the Benin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This followed intelligence reports of their alleged involvement in internet fraud-related activities. Subsequently, they were charged separately with one count each of personation and unlawful possession of fraudulent documents.
For instance, one of the charges against Michael read: “that you, Amah Michael, sometimes between 2022 and 2023 in Benin City, Edo State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did, with intent to defraud, represent yourself to be Calvin Hill, a white man and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 484 of the Criminal Code Law Cap 48 Laws of Bendel State of Nigeria (As applicable in Edo State) 1976”.
In another case, the charge against Oghenenyerhovwo stated: “that you, Ebireri Emmanuel Oghenenyerhovwo, on or about the 1st day of August, 2023, in Benin City, Edo State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did have in your possession documents which you knew or ought to have known contained a false pretense and thereby committed an offence contrary to Sections 6 and 8 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud-Related Offences Act. 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act”.
Upon arraignment, the defendants pleaded guilty to their respective charges, leading the prosecution counsel, F.A. Jirbo, Salihu Ahmed, I.K. Agwai, and A.A. Ibrahim, to request the court to convict and sentence them accordingly. Nevertheless, the defendants’ legal representatives pleaded for leniency.
Justice Ikponmwonba handed down sentences as follows: Constance, Michael, Oghenechovwe, Ifechukwude, Oghenenyerhovwo, Mudiakevwe, and Emmanuel received three years of imprisonment or a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Naira; Oyinkepreye and Mohammed were sentenced to three years of imprisonment or a fine of Three Hundred Thousand Naira; Azanuwha, Augustine, and Ekuma Austin were sentenced to three years of imprisonment or a fine of Two Hundred Thousand Naira.
Furthermore, the judge ordered the forfeiture of assets and instruments of crime, including one Lexus RX 350, two Lexus ES 350 vehicles, one Toyota Camry, a Dell laptop, phones, and the remaining balances in their bank accounts, to the Federal Government of Nigeria.