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Cruel conman jailed for tricking consultant out of £350K

Jul 3 2009 by Kenny Barr, Dumfries Standard Friday

IT WAS an e-mail that was too good to be true.

For anyone willing to help a Nigerian transfer $300 million into a UK bank account they would receive up to half of the fortune.

But for leading consultant surgeon Fawzia Ashkanani the temptation was irresistible.

The breast cancer specialist remortgaged her house and borrowed thousands of pounds from friends and family to invest more than £350,000 in the get rich quick scheme which turned out to be an internet scam.

Nigerian conman Chinaenye Mokelu, 44, was jailed for five years for his part in the phishing spam e-mail which was said to have “ruined” the consultant’s life.

Describing the impact of the fraud on the surgeon at Dumfries Infirmary, Michael Fraser, prosecuting, told Basildon Crown Court: “She said how this whole episode has left her feeling upset with a huge feeling of guilt because she has let down members of her family and indeed close friends.

“She is struggling to cope with repaying the £210,000 remortgage.

“It has also had a profound psychological impact on her. She has considerable difficulty in relating and talking to her patients because this matter has caused her considerable embarrassment.”

The court was told “gullible” Miss Ashkanani saw the opportunity, presented when the e-mail landed in her inbox in August 2007, as a way to finance her dream of setting up clinics in the most deprived areas of Africa.

Mr Fraser said after making contact with the sender, she was asked to pay £4,500 to broker Mokelu, to enable the transfer of funds.

As part of the elaborate fraud, Kuwati-born Miss Ashkanani travelled twice to London to meet several of the gang of fraudsters – who have never been traced by police.

During one meeting in a Holiday Inn she was shown a suitcase full of fake $100 notes. In September 2007, Miss Ashkanani was told the sum of £210,000 was required to release the funds.

So desperate was she to get hold of the promised £75,000,000 reward she raised the amount by remortgaging her house.

The conmen even mocked up and dispatched a document which appeared to be a £150,000 transfer to her account purporting to be from US Citibank Group.

Then came a phone call demanding £750,000 in tax. When Miss Ashkanani said she could not find that amount, the court heard, she was told “raise as much as you can” and threatened with police investigation if she pulled out of the deal.

She convinced her brother to lend her more than £50,000 which was paid into a Lloyds bank account controlled by Mokelu.

The married father-of-two – whose wife and seven and 14-year-old daughters have returned to Nigeria – was arrested as he withdrew £20,000 in cash from the fraudulent account. When police searched his home in Grays, Essex, they found a suitcase full of fake cash and a counterfeit Nigerian passport.

They also found a mobile phone with Miss Ashkanani’s work, home and mobile numbers saved under the names “Miracle 1, Miracle 2 and Miracle 3”, the court was told.

During some 18 months, Miss Ashkanani handed over £352,937.

Mokelu was sentenced to a five-year jail term – four years for conspiracy to defraud and another year added on for using a fake Nigerian passport to set up a fraudulent bank account.

He is expected to be deported at the end of his sentence.

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July 7, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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