No jail for sick Nigerian scamster
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Cape Town - A Nigerian scamster facing a 15-year prison sentence for his involvement in an online romance scam, got off with a 12-year suspended jail sentence instead, on Tuesday.
It seems that his refunding of money scammed from two victims, and the fact that he suffered from an incurable life-threatening disease known as Sickle Cell Anaemia, saved him from the prescribed minimum sentence.
Ndubusi Ifediora appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville, Cape Town, where he pleaded guilty to 16 counts of fraud, one of conspiracy to commit fraud and a violation of the Immigration Act.
The 16 charges related to the scam itself. The 17th charge related to the conspiracy to commit fraud with members of the online romance syndicate to carry out the scam.
On the immigration charge, he entered the country under the false pretence that he required a study visa as a registered student at a technical college – which he was not.
He stepped out of the prisoner’s dock a free man – only to be taken straight back into custody by the immigration authorities, to be deported back to Nigeria.
His case, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, took the form of a plea bargain negotiated with senior State advocate Juan Agulhas by defence attorney Keith Gess.
The case resulted from a police swoop on his Table View home four months ago, when he flushed a mobile phone sim card, containing incriminating evidence, down the toilet.
The police nevertheless found online and email messages on his laptop, from two victims of the scam.
With one victim, he befriended the woman and introduced himself as Michael Brich. He sent her photographs of “himself” at a construction site, and said that he had grown up in Munich, Germany, and that he was a widower with a son attending medical school.
He duped her into parting with R48 853 for him to buy an Apple computer, a mobile phone and an Apple Watch.
He introduced himself to the second victim as Scott Egil, and conned her into giving him R504 000.
Both victims had visited the internet dating site known as Match.com, and the photographs that he sent them were of “generally attractive” men.
According to court papers, one of the reasons why the case took the form of a plea bargain, instead of a fully-fledged trial, was the embarrassment of the victims, both living abroad, at being caught up in such a scam, and their reluctance to come to South Africa as witnesses in court proceedings.
According to the papers, the value of the proceeds of the scam was estimated at R506 000, for which Ifediora had consented to a Confiscation Order in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca).
The defence assured the court that the money had already been paid into the Poca bank account.
African News Agency