A 36-year-old mother of three, Chizoba Ogbonna, has been arrested by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), in Abriba-Ohafia, Abia State, for allegedly masterminding her kidnapping.
The suspect, an indigene of Osisioma in Abia State and a graduate of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State, was arrested with two others, Uche Anthony and Joseph Ezema, who allegedly assisted her to mastermind her kidnap, as well as negotiate for a ransom.
Our source disclosed that N500,000 was paid through Ogbonna’s bank account as ransom, before the IRT operatives swooped on them.
The Nation learnt that one of Ogbonna’s relatives alerted the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, to her purported abduction and the subsequent demand for N2million as ransom.
It was gathered that her purported kidnappers had threatened to kill her within hours if their demands were not met and the IGP swiftly deployed a crack team of operatives from the IRT, headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari, to track and arrest the suspects.
The source said the operatives, who were armed with advanced tracking devices, trailed Ogbonna and her kidnappers to an uncompleted building at Agborji community in Abriba-Ohafia area of the state with the intention of rescuing her and nabbing her kidnappers, but they (operatives) were shocked when they arrived the hideout and discovered that Ogbonna was having an affair with one of her purported kidnappers and her abduction was staged to extort money from her relatives, which she intended using to travel out of the country, with her boyfriend.
Ogbonna, however, denied staging her own kidnapping, claiming that she was hypnotised, whisked away in a vehicle and she later found herself in the home of her boyfriend, Joseph Ezema, who she said contacted her family and demanded the ransom.
She said: “I am a primary school teacher. I was formerly married and had three children for my ex-husband, but I don’t love him. It was as if he charmed me.
I pulled out of the marriage when I realised that I had been hypnotised.
“In 2018, I met Joseph on Facebook and he told me he is a fashion designer. Later I told him that I have some jobs for him and from that point we started a relationship.
At one point in our relationship, we discussed travelling out of the country and he told me that he had once spent about N300,000 for a visa and it didn’t work out for him.
So, on March 13, I was on my way to visit my sister and a vehicle stopped in front of me. I saw six persons in it and a woman inside the vehicle called me and when I responded, she asked me to enter the vehicle. At that point I lost control of myself. She asked me to enter the vehicle and I obeyed her.
“I later found myself in the home of my boyfriend at Agborji. My boyfriend took my phone, called my sister and demanded ransom. When my sister spoke with me, I begged her to pay the ransom my boyfriend was demanding.
“I then sent my account number to my sister and she paid N500,000 into the account. Two days after the money was paid, the police came and arrested me and my boyfriend.”
But her 30-year-old boyfriend, Joseph Ezema, debunked her claim that she was hypnotised and kidnapped.
He narrated how he met her and how she suggested the idea of kidnap so that she could raise the money they would use to travel out of the country.
The fashion designer said: “I have just a secondary school leaving certificate. I’m not married and I don’t have children. I was arrested because I faked the kidnap of my girlfriend. I met her sometime in April 2018, she is one of my friends on Facebook and she was always commenting on my photos. We started chatting, then we started dating.
She told me that she was a divorcee and that her husband used to beat her and he wasn’t allowing her to have friends and there was a day the man came home with another woman and everything became complicated for her. Then she decided to move out of her husband’s home.
“She said she rented an apartment and lived there with one of her children. So, when we started dating, I visited her house with one of my friends, Anthony and I told her that I was planning to travel out of the country. She said she wanted to travel with me, but I told her that I didn’t have such money.
“So, she told me that she would want me to kidnap her and demand ransom from her sister. That we would use the money to travel out of the country. We then travelled to my town, Abriba and she came with a blue phone with two sim cards.
“Two days later, she covered her phone with a cloth and called her sister, pretending to be a kidnapper. She later told her sister that she had been kidnapped and she demanded ransom. Later, she got scared and thought her sister would recognise her voice. Then my friend, Anthony, took over the phone and started negotiating with her sister. After two weeks of negotiation, her family paid N300,000 into her account.
“On the day we were arrested, her family paid an additional N200,000 into her account and they said that was all they could afford. She gave me N100,000 as my share, but the police came and arrested me. I told the police that I am not a kidnapper and that it was my girlfriend who lured me into the act.”
Man arrested for ‘producing fake codeine’ syrups
A 26 years old man, Emmanuel Peter, has been arrested by the police in Bauchi State for “producing fake codeine.”
According to the police, Mr Peter specialises in the mixing of substances which he packages as codeine and sells to his customers.
The accused was arrested at his hideout in Gwallameji area of Bauchi State, the police said. An accomplice, Victor Oguwu, is now said to be at large.
The police spokesperson, Datti Abubakar, said the suspect was caught in a hotel room at Las Pasca Lodge filling empty bottles with a creamy dark substance that smells like cough syrup.
“Items recovered from Mr Peter and his accomplice comprises 71 bottles of locally produced codeine, 30 bottles of Tutolin, one pot of codeine already awaiting refilling, over a hundred empty scavenged bottles, 60 bottle caps, and 120 sticker tags,” he said.
Mr Abubakar, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said the case is under investigation.
When questioned by journalists, Mr Peter said he was ‘innocently dragged into’ the crime.
According to him, he just graduated after serving his master with the hope of setting up his own pharmacy. He said Mr Oguwu contacted him and said he would provide some drugs to help Mr Peter start his new drug dispensing store.
“I never knew the package I paid N140,000 to collect at the GUO transport terminus was containing yet-to-be bottled syrup,” he said.
‘When I called him to complain, the person who sent it said that was how it is normally supplied that I should find where to get the corking machine to seal the bottles. It was in the process of doing that I was caught and arrested on Thursday, 13th June.”
He could not explain how he was able to gather over 100 empty syrup bottles and the 120 codeine syrup label tags found in his possession.
He pleaded for mercy and admitted he had committed a crime.
The Nigerian government had in 2018 banned the issuance of permits for the importation of codeine as an active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough preparations. The government says codeine is being abused as a hard drug by many Nigerians across the country.
Apart from Mr Peter’s arrest, the police in Bauchi also announced the arrest of 50 people for armed robbery, cattle rustling and vehicle snatching in various locations of the state.
The police spokesperson said 30 of them have been charged to court, while investigations are still ongoing in other cases.
Ekiti pastor ‘kidnaps self’, demands N3m from congregation
Adewuyi Adegoke, a pastor at Methodist Church, Ado-Ekiti, capital of Ekiti state, has been arrested by the police for allegedly organising his own kidnap.
Adegoke had arranged with one Oluwadare Sunday to demand N3 million ransom from his congregation.
He reportedly went into hiding on Sunday evening while there were reports that he was abducted between Esa-Oke in Osun state and Aramoko-Ekiti in Ekiti.
His purported abductors later contacted the church members to demand the ransom, which they insisted must be paid latest by Thursday to prevent the reverend from being killed.
Detectives, however, intercepted the pastor’s accomplice, Sunday, who came to pick up the ransom at Okeyinmi area of Ado-Ekiti, after which he led them to the hotel where the pastor had been hiding.
Detectives reportedly tracked the suspects through the mobile phone that he was using to make contact with the church members.
Amba Asuquo, commissioner of police in Ekiti, confirmed that the command is investigating the incident but refused to disclose the identities of the suspects.
“Yes there is something close to that, but we are still investigating and will come out with the details later,” he told reporters.
When asked if the reverend was among the suspects in custody, Asuquo said, “I know we have some suspects in custody in connection with the incident but I cannot reveal their identities to you now.”
When the news of the reverend’s kidnap broke, several members of his congregation took to social media to solicit support towards his rescue.
On Facebook, one Awoyemi Matthew wrote: “People of God. everywhere. please let us raise prayer altars for this vibrant servant of God. REV Adewuyi Adegoke, who was kidnapped recently between Ekiti and Osun state.”
Nigerian jailed for biggest tax fraud in US
A Nigerian – Emmanuel Kazeem – who masterminded a plot to obtain millions in refunds from the United States Internal Revenue Service has been sentenced in Oregon to 15 years imprisonment.
Kazeem, 35, of Bowie, Maryland, was sentenced in Eugene, on Thursday for a “vast conspiracy” of identity theft and tax fraud.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the convict bought personal information (including social security numbers and dates of birth) and used same to fraudulently file thousands of tax returns on behalf of unwitting victims.
“Emmanuel Kazeem orchestrated one of the largest tax fraud schemes in our nation’s history. The complexity of this case and the incredible effort by law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice cannot be understated,” Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon,said.
Kazeem purchased more than 91,000 stolen identities from a Vietnamese hacker—who pried that information from an Oregon background check company’s private database.
Between 2012 and 2015, Kazeem and his co-conspirators filed over 10,000 fraudulent tax returns in an attempt to get over $91 million in refunds.
Not all of the fake returns were successful—but out of a possible $91 million, Kazeem and his crew still managed to receive more than $11.6 million in refunds.
The lid over Kazeem’s fraudulent activities was blown open in 2013 after a Medford resident noticed that someone had filed false tax returns on behalf of her and her husband.
She alerted the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which swung into action and was able to track down Kazeem.
Kazeem reportedly purchased a $175,000 townhouse and put a $200,000 down payment on a brand new home in Maryland.
He also attempted to develop a $6 million 4-star hotel in Nigeria.
Security agents arrested Kazeem in May of 2015 and their probe of his background revealed that he had also engaged in marriage fraud with a view to staying in the country after entering on a student visa.
Kazeem was convicted by a federal jury on 19 counts—including mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud—in Medford on August 4, 2017.
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