An Ikeja High Court on Monday sentenced a Nigerian, Okechukwu Brown, a father of three to imprisonment for three years for engaging in fraudulent activities against an American to the sum of $3,650 in an online romance scam.
The verdict was handed down by Justice Josephine Oyefeso after the Nigerian pleaded guilty to the charge laid against him. He was sentenced after having agreed on a plea bargain with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
The agreement demanded that the pled guilty to a one count charge of obtaining money by false pretenses that was amended. The EFCC also suggested a prison term of one and a half year duration in the plea bargain
The counsel for the defendant, Mr. Uche Chikelue, was seen quoting the bible in his quest to have the court show mercy in sentencing the accused.
“In Mark 10: 46-52, is the story of blind Bartimaeus, who was delivered by one word — mercy. Like blind Bartimaeus, we are standing on the word — mercy.
“My Lord, the defendant has been well behaved and has co-operated with the prosecution throughout the investigations.
“He has no past criminal record, has never been involved in any crime, he is a first-time offender, and he has refunded all the money stated in the information and has shown great remorse for his actions.
“He has aged parents, who due to his present incarceration, are having serious health challenges.
“He is the first-born of the family and the breadwinner, he also has a wife and three children, the last, a toddler.
“My Lord, mercy is not qualified for, we humbly urge the court to temper justice with mercy because we know the court has the discretion to show mercy,” Chikelue said.
While Brown was being sentenced, Justice Oyefeso made some remarks.
“In passing my sentence, I have taken into consideration the allocutus (plea) of the defence counsel.
“The court observes that this crime has taken ground in Nigeria and this court has to send the right signals to the public.
“This crime is a dishonour to our country and paints our great country in a bad light; there must be justice for the defendant, complainant and the country.
“I have also taken into consideration that the Criminal Law of Lagos prescribes 15 years in prison for the offence of obtaining money by false pretences.
“I hereby sentence the defendant to three years in prison on the one-count charge of obtaining money by false pretences.
“This sentence begins from March 13, the day he was first arraigned.”
The offense was committed by Brown between Aug. 22, 2013, and Nov. 23, 2013, at Ikeja. This was disclosed by Mrs. V.O. Aigboje, the EFCC’s counsel. The accused was said to have obtained the sum of 3,650 dollars from Mr. Thomas Nublin of the United States of America in a carefully carried out online romance scam
“The Lagos office of the EFCC in July 2014, received a petition from the U.S. Army alleging that some persons traced to Nigeria defrauded some members of the U.S. Army of over 13,000 dollars in a romance scam.
“The EFFC investigated and was able to trace some of the funds amounting to 3,650 dollars to EcoBank Plc via Moneygram which was received by the convict.
“The convict, in the course of the investigation, refunded to authorities, the said sum of 3,650 dollars, the money received from the crime,” she said.
The offence was a breach of Section 312 (3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.
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