Nigerian fraudster nicknamed ‘Fizzy’ because of his love for champagne
has been jailed for eight years for conning vulnerable pensioners out of
their life savings.
Frank Onyeachonam ran the United Kingdom end
of global lottery scam that was orchestrated from his native Nigeria for
seven years to fund his lavish millionaire’s lifestyle. The scam
involved hundreds of perpetrators in several countries, detectives say.
the UK, 38-year old Onyeachonam conned pensioners out of sums varying
from £2,000 to £600,000, deliberately targeting his victims because they
were potentially vulnerable to his tactics.
While he bled them of their life savings, Onyeachonam enjoyed a life of fast cars, champagne and designer clothes.
Pictures he posted on Facebook showed he spent the cash on Gucci, Louis
Vuitton and Armani designer clothes, Rolex watches, Porsches and
He even stuck wads of what appeared to be £50 notes in his Buzz Lightyear toy.
Canning Town, east London, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of
conspiracy to defraud following a three-week trial.
Lawrencia Emenyonu, 38, and Bernard Armah, 51, both of Wood Green, north London, were also found guilty of money
laundering. All three denied the charges. Emenyonu was jailed for 18
months while her partner Armah received an eight-month term.
Judge Rebecca Poulet QC, said there had been “some very serious outcomes” for the victims caught up in the scam.
She told married father-of-two Onyeachonam: “I judge your culpability
to be very high. This was a very well thought out operation,
sophisticated in both its planning and its operation.”
Onyeachonam, you targeted these individuals because they were elderly
and likely to agree and be tricked by this scam. This was demonstrated
in the fraudster’s own notes in which he described them as ‘crippled,
old or poor,” she said.
“The harm that was caused to these people
could not just be calculated in financial terms but also on the
‘dreadful impact’ on their lives, mental capacity and relationships with
judge went on: “You contested the case in the face of powerful
evidence. You demonstrated the arrogance that you must have carried with
you throughout this fraud by continuing after you knew that the police
had raided your premises.”
The ruse – known as an ‘advance fee’
fraud – saw Onyeachonam send victims emails claiming they had won
millions of pounds on a non-existent Australian lottery and requesting a
charge to release their winnings.
Investigators traced 14 victims
– mainly from the United States but including one from Britain – who
were defrauded of a total of around £900,000.
believe this is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ with evidence suggesting there
may have been as many as 400 victims and the sum may be as high as £30
was seen as the key figure in the UK but police suspect a criminal
network was in place in several countries around the world. Authorities
found an alleged co-conspirator abroad had an email containing the
details of more than 100,000 potential victims.
The defendant was
thought to have started working on the scam almost immediately after he
arrived in the UK from Nigeria in 2005, and was said to have carried on
into 2012 while he was on bail following his arrest the year before.
crimes were uncovered in a three-year operation led by the National
Crime Agency with assistance from the Postal Inspection Service and
Internal Revenue Service in the US.
When they raided his luxury
apartment in Canary Wharf police discovered an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of
evidence pointing to an advanced fee scam. Among 200 exhibits were
notebooks containing the names, addresses, cash tallies and other
personal details relating to 406 people. Police estimate that the fraud
is likely to have run to at least £5 million and possibly as high as £30
million if all those in the notebooks suffered losses.
Brown, senior officer in the NCA’s cyber crime unit, said the majority
of Onyeachonam’s victims were from America. He is thought to have
selected his targets from a database known among fraudsters as a
‘suckers list’, which includes people who are believed to be susceptible
to the tactics.
said: “Victims were sent an email from an alias used by Onyeachonam
saying they had won an Australian lottery. They would be directed to
ring him and he would say ‘if you send me money I will then release your
The lottery ‘winnings’ ranged from £2 million to
£9 million and once they sent on cash victims were ‘hooked’ into the
‘unrelenting’ scam, he said.
“Once they’ve got their claws into
someone they won’t stop. As long as they keep sending them money they
will keep going until there’s nothing left.”
Using the alias Dr.
Jeff Lloyds, Onyeachonam built up a rapport with his victims and
continued extracting money from some for as long as seven years. In
order to make the required payments, several victims took out high
interest loans, forcing them to come out of retirement to repay the
Some of those exploited by Onyeachonam suffered the added
trauma of falling under suspicion themselves as they were used as
‘pawns’ in the criminal network to launder the proceeds of the fraud by
sending on money from other victims or setting up business accounts.
said the scam had made a ‘mental wreck’ of victims, ‘hammering’ their
life’s savings, forcing them to lose their homes and leaving them
isolated from their friends and families.
Emails showed victims
pleaded with Onyeachonam to send them money to pay for healthcare, while
some died before he could be brought to justice.
victim was left with debts of £90,000 and was forced to sell her home,
move into rented accommodation and return to work in an attempt to stave
off bankruptcy. An American victim lost her dream home and she no
longer speaks to her sister or friend.
She described how the scam
made her feel like she had been “raped over and over again”. While he
left a trail of destitution and devastation in his wake, Onyeachonam
enjoyed the high life from the fruits of his deception.
he lived a ‘cash rich’ lifestyle, earning the nickname ‘Fizzy’ for his
taste for expensive champagne. Photographs show him surrounded by cash
and bubbly in nightclubs.
His car collection included Porsches and
Maseratis while his Thames-side flat was full of luxury brands such as
Gucci and Louis Vuitton when it was searched by police.
was the key figure as far as the ‘UK nexus’ was concerned but
detectives believe this was part of an international enterprise.
alleged mastermind or ‘chairman’ of the network is based in Nigerian
capital Lagos and he is currently under investigation by authorities
Asked how many people were working on the global scam,
Brown said: “Name a country and there seems to be a connection. It’s
been almost impossible for us to track everybody down. They’ve all got
responsibility for their own country.”
The prosecution has moved for a confiscation hearing for Onyeachonam.
Culled from Dailymail