A lawyer, Mr Onwuka Okibe, has narrated before an Ikeja Special Offences Court how he was allegedly defrauded of N120, 000 by a ponzi scheme advertised on a radio station.
The Nigeria News Agency reports that Okibe testified on Friday during the trial of a 32-year-old entrepreneur, Loretta Okonkwo, and her company, Recharge and Make Money Ltd.
Okonkwo and her company were tried on a three-count charge of obtaining money by false pretences.
Also, Driver, trader in court for allegedly absconding with dairy products worth N6.1m.
Led in evidence by Mr C. R. Edozie, Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Okibe testified that he was scammed by Okonkwo and others at large.
He said that sometime in June 2018, Okonkwo and some other individuals came on Star FM 101.5 to talk about the company located at No. 155 Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos.
“As a result of the frequency of the jingle, I decided to attend the seminar.
“I was told that the company was in partnership with Airtel, Globacom, Etisalat and other telecommunications companies and if you do any business with them, you will earn a percentage.
“They encouraged people to promote the business by paying a certain amount of money varying from N10,000 to N100,000 depending on the package which included bronze, silver, gold, diamond and platinum,” he said.
The lawyer said, to gain clarity, he had asked the defendant and her partners various questions such as how to make money and earn a premium.
According to him, he was told that the telecommunications industry was a very large and lucrative market.
He said he was told that he would be promoting the company by introducing three persons known as downlinks to qualify for a salary.
The plaintiff said: “In order to convince me, they showed me various Zenith Bank cheques purportedly paid by those who had invested into the company.
“They even said that if they were into fraudulent activities, they would not have situated the company close to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos.
“I was told that someone can have multiple accounts in order to satisfy their conditions.
“They also made me understand that after 30 days of promoting the company, you are entitled to a double of your investment, and in September 2018, I promoted the company with N10,000 and subsequently updated it to N50,000.
“I completed the three downlinks with them totaling N120,000, I paid in cash and was issued receipts from Empowering Lives Foundation, an NGO owned by the defendant for the first payment.”
The witness told the court that he was also issued a receipt for the second payment but was not issued a receipt for the third payment because the payment was made into a bank account.
Okibe said that issues arose when he approached Okonkwo and her alleged accomplices in December 2019 to request for payment of his dividends.
“My lord, when I approached them, they shifted the goal post,” he said.
Okibe said he was asked to lodge his complaints online at www.rechargeandmakemoneyltd.com, adding that he followed the instructions but never got feedback.
The witness said that he confronted the defendants and her alleged accomplices, telling them that the scheme was a scam and that he wanted a refund but was told there was no refund policy.
“On January 2019, I went there again and the defendant brought Mr Abdulsalam Ilya, an armed policeman, and she urged him to arrest me.
“That same day, some new people came to their office because they were still consistently advertising on radio. When you are a new member, they will welcome you with open arms into the scam hall.
“I discouraged some people not to invest in the company because the same song I was singing, they will also sing,” he added.
Okibe said that on Feb. 11, 2019, he wrote a petition to the EFCC reporting Okonkwo and her partners.
“I told the EFCC that Recharge and Make Money Ltd., was worse than MMM. Asides from myself, there were 34 other persons who were scammed.
“Some invested various sums ranging from N100,000 to N1 million.
“I was informed that only a blind man who was a victim of the scam was refunded,” the lawyer said.
According to the EFCC, Okonkwo committed the alleged offences in August and September 2018, in Lagos alongside one Onyebuchi Okonkwo and Gabriel Adubi who are all at large.
“The defendant, her company and accomplices, within that period, defrauded Mr Victor Ekpeyong of N700,000, Okibe of N60,000 and Ms Folukemi Ibilola of N40,000.
“The offences contravene Section 1 (1)(a) and 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006,” Edozie said.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo adjourned the case until April 22 for the continuation of trial.