The Guardian learnt that four members of the syndicate, who were identified as Uche Njokwu, Ifeanyi Chukwu, Nnegbu Rowland and Lucky Paul, were trailed after they successfully defrauded a businessman and government contractor, identified as ‘Alhaji’ of N14 million.
Sources disclosed that they usually ransack through waste bins at the Federal Ministry Secretariats, at the Central Business Districts, Abuja, looking for dispossessed documents or business proposals from businessmen and companies seeking contracts from the Federal Government.
The source said: “When they stumble on any document of unsuspecting Nigerians, they would, in some cases, write to the company or businessman, with a letter-headed paper from the Federal Ministry, where the document was found and include a phone number belonging to a member of the syndicate, which the businessman or company would contact.
In other cases, they would call the company or businessman with the phone number on the business proposal documents…”
Police sources disclosed that several businessmen and companies in the country have fallen prey to them and have lost millions of naira to their tricks. They were said to have run into trouble when they defrauded the said ‘Alhaji’ of N14 million.
The alleged fraudsters made the ‘Alhaji’ believe that if he must get his contract approved, he would have to pay a certain amount of money to some top officials at the ministry, who would approve and award him the contracts.
“It was further gathered that N14million was extorted from him, that it was clear that was a scam.The suspects’ phone-lines were switched off after they received the said N14 million.
Police sources disclosed that a petition was written to Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, alerting him ABout their activities.
The IGP was said to have swiftly deployed his operatives at the IRT, headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP Abba Kyari, who has a track record of hunting down high-profile criminals.The team launched a man-hunt. After several weeks of training, four members of the syndicate, including its ringleader, Uche Ujokwu, were arrested.
During interrogation, Ujokwu confessed to the crime and said that he became a fraudster because he was once a victim.
He said he lost all the money he used to do business to fraudsters and said after he attempted to get back his money, the people who defrauded him asked him to join them.
He said he brought in the police and the police couldn’t help him and he was left with no option but to join them.
The 48-year-old said: “I reside in Suleja area of Niger State. I am from Aboh Mbaise area of Imo State. I am trader. I became a fraudster after I was defrauded. I was going to Wuse Market, Abuja, and someone met me and they gave washed money to me at Jabi area of Abuja, and that was in 2006. They collected N175, 000, which was my business money. When I realised that I was defrauded, I tried to get back my money. I even 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 was to join them.
“They thought me the business and I started defrauding people, using the same method. I travelled to Ghana and spent five years there. 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 defrauded many of them. The case that got me into trouble was that of the N14million, belonging to Alhaji. We found his proposal for road construction and his phone number was on it.
“We called him and sold the dummy that we were working at the Federal Ministry of Works and his proposal was being considered. We deceived him into paying us 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.”
Another suspect, Lucky Paul, 33, in his confession 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 my hairstyling business. My late sister was taught me the job. My sister was a member of the syndicate that defrauded many people. After her death, I took over her place in the group. Our method was to call people and tell them that we wanted to give them contracts. We use to get people looking for contracts from the dustbin around federal ministry secretariat.”