A fraudster who used the cash he conned out of his victims to fund a lifestyle of champagne, luxury apartments and fast cars has been given a seven year prison sentence.
Godwin Nwaofor, 36, was part of an organised crime group responsible for extracting sums worth millions of pounds from individuals mainly based in the United States.
One method of fraud involved sending fake letters or emails advising people they had won the Australian lottery and instructing them to call a lottery agent – who would be Nwaofor using an alias. They were told they needed to pay fees and taxes before they could receive a large cash prize.
Others would be conned into opening new bank accounts, paying in cheques sent by Nwaofor, while at the same time transferring the same sum out. When the cheques were subsequently found to be false and bounced, the victims would be left indebted to the bank.
In some cases communication between Nwaofor and the victims would continue for some time, often years, as he built up relationships of trust with them. This would lead to further requests for more money to be sent from seemingly legitimate companies and organisations, with the victims believing Nwaofor was trying to help them.
Among those he conned was a trucker from Mississippi who lost over $100,000. Another was an 81-year-old woman who had suffered from a brain tumour and continues to be plagued by calls from scammers. A disabled former marine was repeatedly told to make 120-mile round-trips to his nearest branch of Western Union to make transfers.
Phones and SIM cards found in Nwaofor’s possession at the time of his arrest in May 2014 were found to have been used to contact the victims.
Nwaofor was a close associate of Frank “Fizzy” Onyeachonam, jailed for eight years in July 2014 for his role in the scam. The two shared details of potential targets using Facebook messages, while Nwaofor provided Onyeachonam with so-called ‘sucker lists’ containing thousands of names.
During the time of the fraud Nwaofor claimed to be a cleaner and supermarket worker earning less than £10,000 a year. However his bank accounts had large sums of money paid into them. He lived in a luxury apartment in London’s Docklands, drove around in high-end rental cars, including BMWs, Mercedes and Audis, and would also run up four-figure bar bills at exclusive nightclubs.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey court Nwaofor was found guilty of fraud and money laundering on 2 September. He was sentenced to seven years and will also face deportation at the end of his sentence.
Steve Brown, senior investigating officer for the NCA said:
“Godwin Nwaofor was a professional fraudster who specialised in targeting the elderly or vulnerable, essentially grooming them, winning their trust and then fleecing them of their life savings.
“When victims ran out of their own money, Nwaofor encouraged them to take out high interest loans or borrow from friends and family. Many did so and are now left unable to repay these debts.
“He and his associates lived a life of luxury built on the misery of others. Many of his victims have had their lives wrecked by his actions. I hope they can now draw some comfort from the fact he is behind bars.”
For further information on how to avoid becoming a victim of a scammer or to report a suspected scam visit: www.actionfraud.police.uk.
For advice and support in protecting elderly & vulnerable people from scams which come through the postal system visit: http://www.thinkjessica.com/