Collins Samuel, a fraudster who obtained $8,000 as COVID-19 benefit from the US state of Virginia, has been sentenced to two years imprisonment by Justice P. Mallong of the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna, Kaduna State.
Samuel had, upon arraignment on March 11, 2021, pleaded ‘not guilty’ to a one-count charge bordering on impersonation and obtaining by false pretences, brought against him by the Kaduna Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He was arrested in Jos, Plateau State, where he fraudulently represented himself as Ashley Coopper, an American citizen affected by COVID – 19, and obtained $8,000 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) from Virginia, United States.
Investigation revealed that Collins redeemed the $8,000 benefit through bitcoin wallet addresses he got from various cryptocurrency traders.
The charge read: “That you Collins Samuel sometime in February, 2021 in Jos, Plateau State, within jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did commit an offence to wit; impersonation when you fraudulently held yourself as one Ashley Cooper, a citizen of the United States of America and through that identity you applied and received a total sum of $8,000 (United State Dollars) from the State of Virginia as ” Pandemic Unemployment Assistance ) with the intent to gain advantage for yourself and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22 (2) (b) (1) & (ii) of the Cyber Crime ( Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015.”
Justice Mallong had adjourned the case till 22 March for determination of bail application and trial.
But when the matter was mentioned on Monday, the defendant pleaded guilty to an amended charge, prompting the prosecuting counsel, P. C. Onyeneho, to ask the court to convict and sentence him accordingly.
Justice Mallong consequently convicted and sentenced the defendant to two years imprisonment with an option of N500,000.
The convict is also to forfeit the following items: one Toyota Camry 2010 model car, an HP Elite book 840 Laptop and iPad Model A 1396.
The convict is to pay the sum of $8,000 USD which is equivalent to N3, 296,696.48 found in his Access Bank Account as restitution to the victim (the State of Virginia) through the United State Embassy, Abuja.
Another fraudster, Okoh Kingsley Chukwuemeka, was also sentenced to two years in prison for fraud.
Chukwuemeka who had, in the same vein, pleaded ‘not guilty’ to a one-count charge of impersonation on March 14 when he was first arraigned, changed his plea to ‘guilty’.
This prompted EFCC counsel, P.C. Onyeheno, to urge the court to convict and sentence him accordingly.
The trial judge convicted and sentenced him to two years imprisonment with an option of N500,000 fine to be paid to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The convict is also to forfeit, an Apple iPhone 6S, Dell Laptop model 7240, and a Toyota Camry 2010 model car.
The judge further ordered the convict to pay the sum of $700 as restitution to the victim through the US Embassy, Abuja.