Justice Ramon Oshodi of the Special Offences Court in Ikeja has sent an ‘American’ lawyer, Francis Nduka to jail on Monday.
The defendant was sentenced to two years imprisonment for falsely representing himself as an American lawyer.
Nduka who poses as a lawyer and at other times as a Yoga therapist and defrauded unsuspecting victims through internet fraud in the sum of $3,700.
Justice Oshodi handed down the verdict after the convict who confessed to his involvement in romance scams since 2020.
The convict pleaded guilty to the charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Apart from the conviction, the defendant also forfeited items that were recovered from him to the federal government.
During arraignment, the defendant was arraigned on a two-count charge of procurement of fraudulent documents and fraud filed against him by EFCC.
Then, the EFCC, counsel Mrs. Orhieoghene Adewunmi, told the court that Nduka on April 27, 2022, fraudulently procured a document and pretended to be a lawyer named Richard Ratz.
He was also charged over procuring a document Bar registrar of eminent lawyers printed from his Gmail account, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adewunmi said that the offence took place in the Iju Ishaga area of Lagos State.
According to the prosecutor, the offence committed is punishable under Section 318, of the Criminal Laws of Lagos state 2011.
The Ordinary Diploma holder from Auchi Poly pleaded guilty to the charges against him.
After his plea, the prosecuting counsel gave facts of the case.
Adewunmi said,” In view of the defendant’s guilty plea, we wish to review the facts of the case.
“Sometimes in April 2022, we received an intelligence report that a group of individuals was carrying out fraudulent activities in the Iju Ishaga area of Lagos State.
“The EFCC operatives arrested him, and recovered a black Apple iPhone 11 Plus, a gray Lenovo laptop, and a Silver Lexus 350 Saloon car, with plate No SMK 297GW, 2011 model.
“We found in the defendant’s gadgets that he has been pretending to be an American lawyer named Richard Ratz and also acted as Holland Diana a Yoga therapist and collected $3,700 from people.
“He admitted to the offence when he was arrested and also wrote a confession statement.
“Initially a seven-count charge was filed and he opted for a plea bargain, that is why we narrowed it down to a two-count charge. I have the confessional statement and other documents and the car that was retrieved from him was registered.
“As restitution for the money, the defendant has agreed to forfeit the car, laptop, and iPhone 11 plus to the federal government.
“I asked that the court should sentence the defendant according to the section of the charge,” she said.
Prior to the sentence by the court, Nduka in his plea for mercy pleaded with the judge to temper justice with mercy.
The convict who told the court that he started internet fraud in 2020, said, “I am very sorry for what I have done, it will never happen again, I want the court to temper justice with mercy.”
Counsel to the convict, K. A. Adam, in his plea, asked the court to be lenient in sentencing Nduka.
He said,”In view of the plea of the defendant, I urge this court to be lenient in sentencing the defendant as he is a first-time offender.
“We also pray for non-custodian sentencing”.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Oshodi, said,”The legal profession is a noble profession and if you must do anything at all don’t pretend to be a lawyer taking money from people.
Oshodi held, “You have hurt every lawyer in court today. Do you think you are better than them? So you have been posing as an American lawyer since 2020?
The judge said,”Francis Nduka, I have listened to your plea of mercy and that of your counsel that I should give you a non-custodial sentence.
“Let it be known that the legal profession is a noble profession and you didn’t show any remorse while pleading for mercy.
“I hereby sentence you to one-year imprisonment for the first count and one-year imprisonment for the second count or pay a fine of N5m, to the Lagos State registry.
“He should be taken to the maximum custody and the sentence should run concurrently.
“All the items, Apple black iPhone 11 plus, a gray Lenovo laptop, and a Silver Lexus 350 Saloon car, with plate No SMK 297GW, 2011 model, should be forfeited to the federal government,” Justice Oshodi said.