Four men, who specialised in scavenging through waste bins in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja for discarded business proposals in order to use them to defraud unsuspecting businessmen, have been arrested.
The four men: Uche Njokwu, Ifeanyi Chukwu, Nnegbu Rowland and Lucky Paul, were arrested after defrauding one Alhaji of N14 million using phantom contract.
The syndicate was smashed by Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team.
The syndicate’s waterloo began after it defrauded Alhaji, a government contractor.
A police source disclosed: “Members of the syndicate used to rummage through waste bins at the Federal Ministry Secretariat at the Central Business Districts, Abuja, looking for disposed documents or business proposals from businessmen and companies, seeking for contracts from the Federal Government.
“Whenever they find such documents, they clean them up and insert phone numbers belonging to a member of the syndicate.
“It is that phone that the businessman or contractor would call.
“Sometimes, they simply call the businessman through his phone number, which is on the proposal found in the waste bin.
“Many businessmen and companies across the country have fallen prey to this syndicate and lost millions of naira to their tricks.”
The syndicate ran into stormy waters after they defrauded Alhaji N14 million.
It was gathered that Alhaji had submitted his business proposal for a road construction and was waiting for the government to contact him.
Instead, a member of the syndicate contacted him, claiming to be one of the Personal Assistants of a Director in the Ministry where Alhaji had submitted his proposal.
He told Alhaji that his proposal was being considered.
The suspects later made Alhaji to believe that if he wanted his proposal to be approved, he had to part with some money.
He was told that the money was for some top officials at the ministry, who were part of those that would approve and award the contract to him.
After the N14 million was taken from Alhaji, the fraudsters bolted.
They switched off all their phone lines.
Incensed, Alhaji was said to have written a petition to the IGP, Mohammed Adamu, who ordered IRT Operatives, led by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, to look into the case.
Kyari and his men, after weeks of investigations and surveillances, arrested four among the suspects.
The 48-year-old alleged leader of the syndicate, Njokwu, said: “I reside in Suleja area of Niger State.
“I used to be a trader.
“I became a fraudster after I was defrauded.
“I was going to Wuse Market in Abuja when I ran into the syndicate that convinced me that it would wash my money and turn it into dollars.
“I met the syndicate at Jabi area of Abuja; that was in 2006.
“The men collected N175,000, which was my business money.
“When I realised that I had been defrauded, I tried to retrieve my money.
“I got the police involved, but they couldn’t help.
“I went to members of the syndicate; they told me that the only way I could get my money was for me to join them.
“They taught me the business.
“I started defrauding people, using the same method.
“I travelled to Ghana and spent five years.
“When I came back, I formed my own syndicate.
“We target businessmen and companies looking for government contracts.
“We sourced information about our victims through waste bins around Federal Ministry Secretariats in Abuja.
“The case that got me into this present trouble was because of N14 million, which belonged to Alhaji.
“We found his proposal for road construction and his phone number was on it.
“We called and sold him the dummy that we were working at the Federal Ministry of Works.
“We told him that his proposal was being considered.
“We deceived him into paying us upfront for the cost of the contract.
“He fell for it.
“We all absconded after the money was paid.
“I don’t know how police trailed us.
“They arrested us and shut down my office at Suleja.”
His partner, Paul, 33, said: “I went into fraud because I was looking for money to start my hairstylist business.
“It was my sister that initiated me into 419.
“But she’s now late.
“My sister was a member of the syndicate and their job was to defraud people.
“After she died, I replaced her in the syndicate.
“Our modus operandi was to call people and lie to them that government has awarded contracts.
“We used to get people looking for contracts from the ‘dustbins’ around federal ministry secretariat.”