A Nigerian national, Mathew Ejike Nwachukwu, who was previously jailed in Guyana for romance fraud, has been charged again for a similar offence.
The 37-year-old and his Guyanese accomplice, Dwayne Frank, were on Thursday, July 6, 2023, arraigned before Sparendaam Magistrate Alisha George on seven counts of conspiracy to commit a felony.
Frank, a 30-year-old fireman of Tabatinga, Central Rupununi, Lethem, and Nwachukwu of Lot 96 Duncan Street, Kitty Georgetown, both pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Represented by Attorney-at-Law S. Martin, Frank has been placed on $300,000 bail, while the unrepresented Nwachukwu has been remanded to prison. The matters have been adjourned until August 9 for report and fixture.
Nwachukwu is currently serving 24 months’ imprisonment for a similar offence.
In September 2022, based on an intelligence report, the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) commenced several investigations concerning romance/package delivery scams allegedly being masterminded by Nigerian nationals, one of whom is Nwachukwu.
As a result of those investigations, it has been revealed that Frank and Nwachukwu had conspired with other persons who befriended the victim via WhatsApp and formed a relationship with her.
Her “lover” had called her via WhatsApp and told her he had sent an expensive package with surprises for her. Sometime after, the woman received a call from someone who claimed he was working at the airport in New York, USA.
He informed her that her package had arrived in Guyana, and that someone would call her to pay the customs fees.
She subsequently received a call from a male, who told her that she needed to pay customs fees to clear the package, as it contained cash and expensive items.
That person gave her the names and identification particulars of several Guyanese nationals who were used as money mules in the scheme, and she was required to send the money in their names via the Post Office Corporation.
The money was collected by the mules and handed over to Frank, who worked with Nwachukwu in the scheme. Frank kept a portion of the money for himself, and handed over the remainder to Nwachukwu.
The victim sent a total of $1,030,000 via the Post Office Money Order on seven occasions. Based on investigations, the two accused were charged.
In September 2022, Nwachukwu and another man were charged with defrauding Njema Nobel of $100,000 in cash by falsely pretending that they were in a position to deliver a package to her.
While the other man was placed on cash bail, Nwachukwu was remanded to prison.
SOCU had previously warned of a sharp rise in cases in which Nigerian nationals who are in the country illegally, as well as some out of Guyana, are working with local accomplices to carry out scams and pyramid schemes on unsuspecting persons.
According to SOCU, package delivery/romance scams became prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as scammers targeted primarily women via several social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, as well as online dating sites.
Persons are urged to be on the alert for such scams.