Saturday, July 5, 2014

Frank Onyeachonam, Bling Lifestyle Of Jailed Fraudster Nicknamed Fizzy Because He Adored Champagne

A calculating fraudster nicknamed "Fizzy" because of his love of champagne has seen his millionaire's lifestyle come to an end.

Frank Onyeachonam was jailed today for eight years for conning vulnerable pensioners out of their life savings with a bogus lottery scam to fund his high life.

For seven years, Onyeachonam ran the UK operation of a global scam which was orchestrated from his native Nigeria and involved hundreds of perpetrators in several countries, detectives suspect.

He extracted from £2,000 to £600,000 from pensioners, who were deliberately targeted because they were potentially vulnerable to his tactics, bleeding them of their life savings while he enjoyed a life of fast cars, champagne and designer clothes.

Onyeachonam, 38, of Canning Town, east London, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of conspiracy to defraud following a three-week trial.

The jury of eight women and four men also found co-defendants Lawrencia Emenyonu, 38, and Bernard Armah, 51, both of Wood Green, north London, guilty of money laundering. All three denied the charges.

Emenyonu was jailed for 18 months while her partner Armah received an eight-month term.

Judge Rebecca Poulet QC, said there had been "some very serious outcomes" for the victims caught up in the scam.

She told married father-of-two Onyeachonam: "I judge your culpability to be very high. This was a very well thought out operation, sophisticated in both its planning and its operation.

"Mr Onyeachonam, you targeted these individuals because they were elderly and likely to agree and be tricked by this scam."

This was demonstrated in the fraudster's own notes in which he described them as "crippled, old or poor", she said.

The harm that was caused to these people could not just be calculated in financial terms but also on the "dreadful impact " on their lives, mental capacity and relationships with loved-ones.

The judge went on: "You contested the case in the face of powerful evidence. You demonstrated the arrogance that you must have carried with you throughout this fraud by continuing after you knew that the police had raided your premises."

The ruse - known as an "advance fee" fraud - saw Onyeachonam send victims emails claiming they had won millions of pounds on a non-existent Australian lottery and requesting a charge to release their winnings.

Investigators traced 14 victims - mainly from the US but including one from Britain - who were defrauded of a total of around £900,000.

But detectives believe this is the "tip of the iceberg" with evidence suggesting there may have been as many as 400 victims and the sum may be as high as £30 million.

Onyeachonam was seen as the key figure in the UK but police suspect a criminal network was in place in several countries around the world.

Authorities found an alleged co-conspirator abroad had an email containing the details of more than 100,000 potential victims.

The defendant was thought to have started working on the scam almost immediately after he arrived in the UK from Nigeria in 2005, and was said to have carried on into 2012 while he was on bail following his arrest the year before.

His crimes were uncovered in a three-year operation led by the National Crime Agency with assistance from the Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service in the US.

When they raided his luxury apartment in Canary Wharf police discovered an "Aladdin's cave" of evidence pointing to an advanced fee scam.

Among 200 exhibits were notebooks containing the names, addresses, cash tallies and other personal details relating to 406 people.

Police estimate that the fraud is likely to have run to at least £5 million and possibly as high as £30 million if all those in the notebooks suffered losses.

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