A Lagos State Special Offences Court has sentenced a 32-year-old man, Israel Osaije, to two years imprisonment for engaging in fraud and benefiting the sum of $3,000.
Justice Ismail Ijelu, on Friday, gave an option of a N1 million fine to the defendant, Osaije, which he would pay to the federal government of Nigeria within a month.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned the defendant on an amended one-count charge information bordering on fraudulent representation.
The prosecution counsel, Ebareotu Pereagbe, had told the court that the defendant entered a plea bargain with the prosecution leading it to amend the charges against the defendant.
Pereagbe applied to the court to strike out the second count in the prosecution’s earlier charge information, which the judge granted.
When the amended charge was read to the defendant, Osaije, he pleaded guilty to possessing fraudulent documents in which he falsely represented himself as a foreign woman.
The counsel to the prosecution told the court that the defendant was arrested sometime in August 2023 at Peninsula Garden Estate, Lekki, Lagos state after the EFCC acted on an intelligence it received.
Pereagbe told the court that an iPhone 7 was recovered from Osaije when he was arrested and that the EFCC found fraudulent documents inside the phone during forensic analysis.
He said, “The defendant’s phone was subjected to forensic analysis and incriminating documents were found. The documents were printed in front of the defendant.”
The prosecution counsel told the court that the defendant wrote a statement confessing to benefitting USD3,000 as proceeds of the fraudulent activity.
Pereagbe also told the court that Osaije restituted N1 million in two tranches of N500,000, which he paid to the EFCC through Zenith Bank in January 2024 and Access Bank in February 2024.
The prosecution counsel presented the court with the Access and Zenith bank managers’ cheques and sought to tender them in evidence along with the defendant’s statement and iPhone 7 mobile device.
The judge admitted the materials as exhibits in evidence.
Pereagbe asked the court to convict the defendant because of his guilty plea.
He also asked the court to order the defendant to forfeit both his iPhone 7 and the N1 million restituted and in the custody of the EFCC to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The judge, Ijelu, asked the defendant whether he fully understood the charge against him and knew the consequences.
He asked the defendant, “Do you know that you can choose to have a trial instead of taking a guilty plea? And allow the prosecution to prove its case against you?”
Osaije answered in the affirmative.
Ijelu thereby convicted Osaije of being in possession of documents containing false pretence, contrary to Section 320 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2015.
Before his sentencing, the convict asked the judge to have mercy on him and told the court that he realised that he made a wrong decision.
“I have learnt the hard way that nothing good comes from crime,” Osaije said.
After the judge considered his plea and queried him further, he sentenced the convict to two years imprisonment with an option of paying N1 million to the Federal Government within one month.