Justice E. A. Obile of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has convicted and sentenced two internet fraudsters: Jonàhan Collins and Godspower Ofonime to six years imprisonment for internet- related offences.
Upon their arraignment by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on July 6 and July 7, 2021, Collins and Ofonime respectively pleaded “guilty” to the charges preferred against them. While Collins pleaded “guilty” to two-count charges, Ofonime pleaded “guilty” to one- count charge, all bordering on impersonation and obtaining money by false pretence, contrary to Section 22 (2) (b) ( ii) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc.) Act 2015 and punishable under section 22 (2) (b) (iv) of the same Act.
One of the charges against Collins read: “That you Jonathan Collins (Alias Janis Louise Hughes; Allan Carmack Calluk; Dr. James Lattimore) sometime in Sapele, Delta State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did fraudulently impersonate yourself on the internet as Janis Louise Hughes, a white man from Glenville, North Carolina, USA with intent to obtain money from unsuspecting men and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 22 (2) (b)( ii) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 and punishable under section 22 (2) (b) (iv) of the same Act”.
The lone count against Ofonime read:
“That you Godspower Ofonime Timothy on or about the 26th day of January 2021, at Choba in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did fraudulently impersonate yourself on the internet as an Army officer and also an Engineer residing in Turkey with intent to defraud and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 22 (2) (b) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc.) Act 2015 and Punishable under section 22 (2) (b) (iv) of the same Act.”
In view of their pleas, prosecution counsel, M. T. Iko, prayed the court to convict and sentence them accordingly. However, counsel to the two defendants: W. B. Idema and Panla Abudu pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy. According to them, the defendants are first- time offenders with no previous criminal records and have promised not to get themselves involved in internet fraud activities again.
Justice Obile convicted and sentenced Collins to two years imprisonment on each count with an option of fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100, 000.00) only. He also ordered that the red coloured HP laptop with serial number 3CE236SHP and three Nokia Phones used in committing the offense be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, The convict shall also undertake in writing to be of good behaviour and law abiding.
The judge also convicted and sentenced Ofonime to two years imprisonment with an option of fine of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200, 000) only.
Collins’ journey to the Correctional Centre began when the EFCC worked on some discreet intelligence linking him with internet fraud. Investigations showed that he was posturing as a female American (Janis Hughes) from Glanville, North Carolina and Allan Carmack Kalluk from Nunavut, Canada and in the process defrauded his victims of various sums of money.
On his own part, Ofonime ran into trouble when verified intelligence by the EFCC linked him with sending scam mails to his victims, who are mostly foreigners. He falsely presented himself as a Turkish Army officer and Engineer. He was active on Goggle Hangout and benefited from his victims through PayPal account.