According to the Nigerian Tribune, Michael (38) was arrested on August 26, four months after the police had been looking for him.
Crime Reports learnt that a female banker (names withheld) whose password was used to access a bank customer’s account details lodged a complaint with the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, that she was falsely accused of fraud in her office. The owner of the account who was based in London had lodged a complaint with the bank when he discovered that money in his account had depleted.
The police commissioner reportedly forwarded the petition to the Rapid Response Squad on April 19 and by the following day, four suspects were arrested. Those nabbed included Ezurike Peter (35) who was a staff member of the bank in which the account of the victim was domiciled, Ayo Olalekan (32), Ochenehi Israel (31) and the gang leader’s wife. A manhunt was also launched for the syndicate leader, Michael.
The syndicate’s modus operandi, according to police sources, was to increase the limit of a bank customer’s account after Peter, who was an insider, would have got the customer’s details and phone number by using his colleague’s password to access it. The phone number of the account holder would also be blocked temporarily from receiving debit alert while the limit of his/her financial transaction would be upped to N200,000.
To achieve this, a syndicate member, Israel, would go to the bank where the targeted account was domiciled to fill a form to increase the daily limit on the account. He would not wait but would drop the form, saying he would be back. Once the name and phone number tallied, the bank would act, not knowing that the account details had been compromised by their staff.
To ensure that the owner of the account did not suspect anything, the syndicate would have held the line of the owner so that he or she would not have network on his phone to receive debit alert.
Israel was said to be very skilled in his role and the members were getting N200,000 daily which was usually shared equally, with each syndicate member getting N50,000.
They were said to have taken N600,000 from an account in three days and N2 million from another in 10 days.
Michael, also reportedly used his wife’s account into which his own share was transferred. The syndicate leader who had been on the run was eventually arrested on August 26 and transferred to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos State, for further investigation.
In an interview with Crime Reports, Michael confessed to committing the crime but gave reason for his action. According to the suspect, “it is true I was arrested in connection with fraud. I joined the syndicate after I was also defrauded to the tune of N4.7 million. Some people approached my auto shop and said they wanted to buy a car. They paid me with fake dollar notes. Later they told me they were a syndicate and what they did was a game.”
When asked whether he was collecting dollars as payment for cars purchased from him, Michael replied that he wanted to help the ‘customers’ change the money to naira. “I also got bank alerts that indicated payment of cash into my account in addition to the dollars. I believed that the transaction was successful so I handed the car over to them. It was when I got to the bank that I was told that the dollar notes were counterfeit.
“I had nothing again. Along the way, I saw a friend called Harrison and he brought me into the (fraud) business. He said that if I would follow him, I would see how the business was being done. We did the business on mobile phones by transferring money from an account in a bank to another. It was usually achieved through an insider, a friend of mine, Peter who worked in that bank. I told him and he said we should go ahead. I have now learnt my lesson,” Michael spoke further.
When contacted, the police image maker in Lagos State, SP Dolapo Badmus, confirmed the arrest and said that the suspect would be charged to court at the completion of investigations.