A convicted Internet fraudster, Hope Aroke, who is serving a 24-year jail term in the Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre in Lagos, has allegedly masterminded a $1m scam while in custody.
The convict, who is the subject of an investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, reportedly organised the scam using a network of accomplices.
Hope was one of two Malaysia-based Nigerian undergraduate fraudsters arrested by the EFCC in 2012 at the 1004 Housing Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos, following a tip-off.
The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday that the lid on his latest fraud exploits from the correctional facility was blown open following intelligence received by the anti-graft agency.
According to the EFCC, preliminary investigation revealed that the convict, against the established standard practice, had access to the Internet and mobile phone in the centre.
The statement said, “Even more puzzling was the finding that Hope got himself admitted to the Nigeria Police Hospital, Falomo, Lagos, for an undisclosed ailment. And from the hospital, he would move out to lodge in hotels, meet with his wife and two children, and attend other social functions.
“The circumstances of his admission to the hospital and those who aided his movement from the hospital to hotels and other social engagements are already being investigated by the EFCC.”
Investigation by the anti-graft agency also revealed that Hope used a fictitious name, Akinwunmi Sorinmade, to open two accounts with First Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
He also allegedly bought a property at the Fountain Spring Estate, Lekki, Lagos, in 2018 for N22m, and a Lexus RX 350 2018 model registered in his wife’s name, Maria Aroke.
The convict was also in possession of his wife’s bank account token while in prison, which he used to freely transfer funds.
The commission said further investigation revealed that while his trial was ongoing in 2015, Hope bought a four-bedroom duplex on Plot 12, Deji Fadoju Street, Megamounds Estate, Lekki County Homes, Lekki for N48m
During his arrest, the Okene, Kogi State indigene, had claimed to be a student of Computer Science at the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University, Malaysia, but the commission’s investigation fingered him as the arrowhead of an intricate web of Internet fraud scheme that traversed two continents.
The statement read in part, “When Hope was arrested, a search conducted by the EFCC operatives on his apartment led to the recovery of several items such as laptops, iPad, travelling documents, cheque books, flash drives, Internet modem and three exotic cars – a Mercedes Benz SUV, a 4Matic Mercedes Benz car and a Range Rover SUV.
“He was eventually convicted by Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court on two counts of obtaining money by false pretences, cheque-cloning, wire transfer and forgery. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment on each of the two counts.”