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419er jailed for 376 years

Hard time for $2m scammer

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A Nigerian 419er was last Friday jailed for 376 years by a Lagos court for "stealing, forgery, impersonation and conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences" contrary to the Advance Fee Fraud Act, the Nigerian Daily Independent reports.

Harrison Odiawa, 38, aka Abu Belgori, managed to extract $1,939,710 from US national George Robert Blake on the promise of a percentage of a bogus $20.45m Ministry of Health contract. The classic advance fee scam saw a duped Blake transfer the "advance payments" after seeing forged documents - including a certificate of registration with the Corporate Affairs Ministry and the aforementioned forged Ministry contract - which convinced him he was indeed about to get rich. Blake raised the cash from his company, Quest Exploration and Development, and his own personal assets.

Odiawa was eventually tracked and arrested in Lagos by Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) operatives. During his trial, Blake appeared as the star witness and identified Odiawa from his voice because "because they had conversations for more than 100 times over the telephone". Odiawa countered that he was not in fact the person who had scammed the American but rather "chanced on the telephone number he found on a computer that was not lodged out from the internet in his cyber café".

Judge Joseph Olubumi Oyewale was unimpressed, and in jailing the 419er on 48 of the 58 counts on which he was charged, also ordered him to pay back $1.6m to his victim. He said he hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent to others.

Blake has already served a 30-month jail sentence in the US for money laundering and bank wire offences. ®

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