$592,000 scam: Abuja court jails internet fraudster for defrauding Coinbase users in 13 countries

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A fraudster, Eze Harrison Arinze, has been jailed by Justice J.K Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for defrauding 34 victims in 13 countries of $592,000.

Arinze was jailed on Thursday, December 7, following his re-arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Arinze was re-arraigned on one count charge bordering on impersonation and obtaining under false pretence.

The amended count charge reads: That you, EZE HARRISON ARINZE alias Charlotte Brain, sometime between April, 2021 and December, 2022 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, did fraudulently impersonate one Charlotte Brain a purported owner of digitrades.netxxxxxxxxxxxxxx investment platforms on telegram and in that assumed character obtained cryptocurrency worth $592,000.00 from Coinbase exchange users, through your bitcoin address -333AgHuT8wAhowRBQZ2ASxxxxxxxx domiciled with Coinbase, a Virtual Asset Service Provider and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 22(3)(b) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, 2015 and punishable under Section 22 (4) of the same Act.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge when it was read to him.

In view of the plea, prosecution counsel, Christopher Mshelia urged the court to convict and sentence the defendant as charged.

Earlier, Ogunjobi Olalekan, a prosecuting witness and a detective of EFCC, while concluding his testimony -in -chief told the court that the evidence gotten in the course of investigation was based on the printout from the defendant`s email, other digital currency platforms, his telegram page code named Digi-trade, including response from banks which was in a cumulative sum of $592,000 worth of cryptocurrency as at December 4, 2023.

He added that the defendant was afterwards invited to make statements under words of caution.

Justice Omotosho convicted and sentenced Arinze to three years imprisonment, with an option of N3 million fine.

He added that 11.07 Bitcoins valued at $461,280.70 as of December 4, 2023 be restituted to the 34 victims from 13 countries as identified.

The judge also ruled that 1.93BTC, 5.9ETH, and 298.4GST valued at $94, 000 as of 4th December, 2023, be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Furthermore, the judge ordered that a total sum of N37, 977,108 domiciled in his bank accounts be forfeited to the Federal Government, including a plot of land located at plot No. 34 Anioma Layout, Umuchigbo Iji-nike in Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State measuring approximately 1380.609 Squares meters.

The EFCC said Arinze’s journey to the correctional centre started when he impersonated one Charlotte Brain, and created a fictitious investment platform, digitrades.netxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on telegram and in that assumed character, obtained cryptocurrency worth $592,000.00 from Coinbase exchange users, through his bitcoin address.

“His victims are from Burundi, Cameroun, Costa Rica, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Rwanda, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, United States of America and Zimbabwe,” the EFCC said.

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John is a University of Lagos-trained journalist who has read almost every novel written by Chinua Achebe, Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown. He's an expert Scrabble and draughts player who is also excellent at swimming.
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