Cape Town – A Nigerian man, allegedly involved in an online scam in which victims were falsely informed that they had won a Chevrolet Spark, hopes to negotiate a plea bargain agreement, a court in Cape Town heard on Monday.
Ikechukwu Chigbufue, 33, his address given in the charge sheet as Gordon Sands in Gordon’s Bay, appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg.
According to the charge sheet, he was arrested in December last year, and has been in custody ever since.
During Monday’s proceedings, prosecutor Juan Agulhas said negotiations for the plea and sentence agreement were “still on the table”, and the State hoped to finalise the process one way or the other by May 12.
Defence attorney Keith Gess said he also needed Chigbufue’s instructions about the “road ahead”, in the event of the negotiations collapsing.
The charge sheet alleges that Chigbufue belonged to a syndicate that falsely informed victims by SMS or WhatsApp Messenger that they had won a Chevrolet Promo Award, and that the prize was a Chevrolet Spark.
Victims were required to provide their names and surnames, residential addresses and codes, as well as their ID numbers and mobile telephone numbers.
Once their winnings were “confirmed”, alleged victims had to activate reference numbers and pay additional expenses such as registration fees, taxes, customs duties and courier services.
The victims also had to pay ostensible expenses such as emergencies, and administrative costs, into bank accounts provided by the syndicate, to ensure the delivery of the vehicles.
It is alleged that, as part of the scam, Chigbufue and other members of the syndicate created fake online personalities that gave victims a false sense of security.
The online personalities were portrayed as wealthy individuals who were able to repay monies advanced by victims.
The State alleges that Chigbufue used fake online profiles, including photographs and personal information, in order to bolster the veil of reliability and trust.
It is alleged that victims were targeted and befriended, on online dating sites such as Badoo.
Chigbufue faces 32 charges – 23 of fraud relating to the Chevrolet Spark scam, seven pertaining to the online dating leg of the scam, one that alleges a conspiracy to commit fraud, and a final count involving the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca).
Police arrested him after a tip-off that he was on his way out from his rented apartment.
Chigbufue’s case was remanded to May 12.