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By Celestine Okafor (Editor-in-Chief) @CelestineOkaf11

Justice R.A.Oshodi of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on Monday, January 23, 2023, sentenced one Francis Nduka to two years imprisonment for possession of a document containing false pretence.

Nduka, a National Diploma, ND, holder from Auchi Polytechnic, was arraigned by the Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an amended two-count charge bordering on possession of a document containing false pretence, an offence contrary to Section 318 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.

Count one reads: "Francis Chikodi Nduka, on or about the month of April 2020, in Lagos, within the Ikeja Judicial Division, had in your possession a document containing a false pretence, specifically a document titled, "Google Account" printed from your email account This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., wherein you falsely pretended to be a man named Richard Ratz, which representation you knew to be false."

Count two reads: "Francis Chikodi Nduka, on or about the month of April 2020, in Lagos, within the Ikeja Judicial Division, had in your possession a document containing a false pretence, specifically, a document titled, "THE BAR REGISTER OF PREEMINENT LAWYERS CERTIFIES THAT THE LAW FIRM OF BARRISTER RICHARD RATZ" printed from your email account This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., wherein you falsely pretended to be a lawyer named Richard Ratz, which representation you knew to be false."

He pleaded "guilty" to the charges preferred against him.

Following his guilty plea, the prosecuting counsel, O. Adewunmi, gave a review of the facts to prove the case against the defendant.

Adewunmi told the court that the defendant was among the suspected internet fraudsters arrested by operatives of the EFCC at the Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos State in April 2022, following actionable intelligence on the activities of internet fraudsters in the area.

Adopting the facts of the case, Adewunmi said: "Sometime in April, last year, the EFCC received an intelligence report, which intimated that a group of individuals in the Iju area of Lagos State were carrying out fraudulent acts online."

According to her, following the intelligence report, the EFCC operatives carried out covert surveillance and later a raid on the area on April 27, 2022, during which some internet fraudsters were arrested, including the defendant.

Following his arrest, a black iPhone 7+, a grey Lenovo laptop and a silver Lexus ES350 2011 model Salon car were recovered from him.

Forensic analysis of his devices unravelled fraudulent documents, which indicated that he paraded himself online as an American lawyer by the name Richard Ratz to engage in inheritance scam, and also as a physiotherapist to defraud unsuspecting victims through romance scam.

Upon his arrest and interrogation, he was confronted with the fraudulent documents obtained from his devices, which he admitted emanated from him.

He also admitted to benefitting the sum of $3,700.

The prosecution then tendered in evidence the confessional statements of the defendant, a bundle of fraudulent documents printed out from his devices as well as a copy of the EFCC exhibit form.

They were all admitted in evidence against the defendant, as there was no objection from the defence counsel, A.O. Adam.

In view of this, the prosecution urged the court to convict the defendant as charged and to also order the forfeiture of the items recovered from him to the Federal Government.

Justice Oshodi found him guilty as charged.

The defendant, who was given an opportunity to address the court, pleaded for mercy.

Justice Oshodi sentenced him to one year imprisonment on each count.

The sentences are to run concurrently.

He was, however, given an option of N5million fine.

Items recovered from him were also ordered forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. NNL.

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