A Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has sentenced three Nigerian men to different jail terms for their involvement in a €254,000 romance fraud. The threewere jailed for defrauding a 60-year old woman of the said amount, which is her life saving.
According to Irish Times, Omowale Owolabi, 31, Raak Sami Sadu, 32 and Samson Ajayi, 33, were arrested by Gardaí, an Irish state police force attached to the National Economic Crime Bureau following suspicious concerns raised about a man whom she had been messaging online.
The unidentified woman told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that she met a man calling himself Neil Turner on the dating website, Plenty of Fish, in November 2019 and that both of them began messaging each other romantically thereafter. From investigations which unearthed over 800 pages of messages downloaded by the Gardaí, it turned out that the said Neil Turner were three Nigerian nationals living in Ireland.
The court heard that the trio, using the fake profile, told the woman that Turner had business dealings with oil and gas off the coast of Cork, adding that he was due to receive a large inheritance. He asked the woman for money to help him with his business following which she transferred the first tranche of the 10 payments to Turner in November 2019. In the course over six months, she transfered over €254,000 to the fake person.
Turner, according to state prosecutor, Eoghan Cole, asked the woman to go to Dubai for business as he could not travel due to his work on an oil rig. She was further told that her expenses would be reimbursed after which she booked her flights and accommodation and travelled to Dubai in 2019.
While in Dubai, the woman met a group who showed her a bundle of cash amounting to $3.25 million whereupon she was asked for ID and $650,000 for the release of the funds. She however, refused to pay the money on the ground that she did not have it. The men told her they would be unable to do business with her and thereafter, returned her to her hotel. The experience, according to prosecutor, got her frightened even as she still believed everything that she was being told by Turner.
On the strength of her belief, she went ahead to borrow €50,000 from a friend which she handed over to Turner. But she became suspicious upon her return from Dubai, a reason why she contacted the Gardaí after which investigators tracked down the trio, using emails addresses, bank accounts to ultimately get to their home addresses after which they were subsequently arrested and interviewed.
Owolabi, who lives in Kentswood Court in Navan, admitted in his third interview that he was involved in the trip to Dubai and received €30,000 for his role in the scheme. He also pleaded guilty to theft and was sentenced to three years and three months in prison. In addition to the sentence, he forefeited a Mercedes car valued at €16,000 and a Rolex watch, which he said he bought for €25,000, but was appraised and valued at €10,000.
The police equally retrieved several laptops and mobile phones with the usernames and passwords for the Turner profile on the Plenty of Fish website. In addition to other online fake profiles, they also found an email account linked to Neil Turner containing messages outlining how the money collected should be shared.
Though Ajayi, domiciled in Park Wood, Grangerath in Co Meath, refuted being involved in wrongdoing, he however, admitted to receiving money and pleaded guilty to three money laundering charges. He bagged three years in jail. Sadu, a resident of of Lohunda Downs, Clonsilla, Dublin 15, made limited admissions to the Gardaí while also exercising his right to silence. However, he got penned for two and a half years for three money laundering charges.
While passing the sentences, Judge Martin Nolan pointed out that the men promised certain romantic fulfilment which they had no intention of fulfilling. He added that the victim fell for the “collective charm” of the three men, insisting he must punish them for their behaviour. He subsequently sentenced them in accordance with the law.