Aug 07, 2022 News
==The Court Journal==
By Renay Sambach
Kaieteur News – Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) Head, Faizal Karimbaksh, has on multiple occasions warned citizens to be vigilant against “Package Delivery” and “Romance Scams”. Nevertheless, scores of people continue to fall victim to scams, resulting in them losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As such, this week, I will give some insight on matters in which persons were brought before the court for allegedly scamming persons through a scheme being called ‘Romantic Facebook Scam’.
On July 27, a 25-year-old woman, who pretended to be an Englishman on Facebook to rob another of $85,000, was spared being jailed after the victim accepted repayment and dropped the charge against her.
The person behind the fake Englishman’s Facebook profile was identified as Susan Richards of Lot 4 Go Slowe Avenue, North East La Penitence, Georgetown.
An investigation conducted by SOCU, revealed that Richards was behind a “Romance Scheme” that scammed a woman of $85,000.
Richards was charged with conspiracy to defraud and was placed before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
When the matter was first called, she was unrepresented and had pleaded not guilty to the charge after it was read to her. The magistrate had remanded Richards to prison and the matter was adjourned to a later date.
However, Richards obtained legal representation and the matter was recalled. She was represented by Attorney-at-law, Eusi Anderson and a bail application was made.
Anderson told the court that his client, Richards, is pregnant and an environment behind bars would not be healthy for her condition. Anderson had argued that Richards was not a flight-risk and noted too that she was very cooperative with investigators during the probe. In the end, the magistrate dismissed the case after the victim agreed to accept compensation – the $85,000 that was swindled – from Richards.
The victim accepted the repayment and took the stand swearing that she will not give any evidence against Richards and the matter was dropped.
Richards was accused of posing as a man from England called Alex who befriended a woman looking for love and ended up robbing her of $85,000. SOCU learnt that Richards convinced the victim that she had bought her some expensive gifts from overseas and had shipped them to Georgetown. The victim believed “Fake Alex” and followed his instruction to transfer cash to Richards to clear the package.
She reportedly transferred the money to Richards via Western Union and Alex disappeared from Facebook and never made contact with her again. The package with the expensive overseas gifts never arrived and when the victim realised she was scammed, a report was made and SOCU launched an investigation which led to Richards being arrested. It was later recommended that she be charged with conspiracy to defraud.
John Patrick Lewis
Another woman fell prey to a ‘Facebook boyfriend’ whose motive was identical to that of the fake Englishman – to rob her of cash. The Facebook lover managed to convince his victim to pay more than $140,000 for a “Money Laundering Certificate,” which he claimed she needed to clear some expensive gifts he had sent for her from overseas.
This matter was also investigated by SOCU which had labelled the incident as “another Facebook Romance Scheme” and related that its ranks had arrested a “third party” suspected in the fraudulent transaction.
SOCU identified the suspect as 56-year-old, John Patrick Lewis of Williamsburg Village, Corentyne, Berbice, Region Six.
According to the statement, Lewis was charged with conspiracy to defraud.
He appeared in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts before Senior Magistrate Leron Daly.
Lewis pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted $50,000 bail.
SOCU reported that the victim met a ‘Facebook boyfriend’ who won her trust and promised her some expensive gifts. The fake boyfriend then instructed her to transfer some cash to four individuals, in order to ‘clear’ the package. Lewis was allegedly one of those individuals and via Western Union she sent him a total of $146,500 for a “Money Laundering Certificate” to clear the gifts because they were very expensive.
The victim lost her money and the purported boyfriend vanished. However, SOCU managed to nab Lewis.
A few days before Lewis made his first court appearance, an East Bank Demerara (EBD) resident, Jaffon Hinds, found himself before the court facing charges for being part of a “Romance Scheme” after allegedly robbing a woman of $502,340.
The woman was looking for love and met a Facebook friend who won her heart but he turned out to be scammer who eventually robbed her, allegedly with the help of Hinds.
According to SOCU, which investigated the matter, the victim’s Facebook boyfriend “promised her a huge package filled with expensive items” but before she could receive them, the woman had to help out financially with the shipping expenses.
She was allegedly instructed to send cash to Hinds via Western Union and did so on three occasions. Unfortunately, she never received the “package filled with expensive items” and her Facebook love ghosted her.
SOCU’s investigation led to the arrest of Hinds, a resident of 106 Downer Street, Grove, (EBD). It is alleged that he acted as a “third party” to rob the woman of the cash and as a result, he was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit a felony.
He appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts before Magistrate Zamina Ally-Seepaul and pleaded not guilty to all three charges. The defendant was placed on $90,000 bail.
SOCU boss, Karimbaksh had warned the public that there was a sharp rise in cases in which suspected Nigerian nationals, in Guyana and overseas, collaborate with locals to scam unsuspecting persons.
“Package Delivery” and “Romance” scams became more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic as scammers targeted primarily women via several social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as online dating sites, the SOCU boss had stated.
Karimbaksh had explained too that the modus operandi used by the scammers is to befriend unsuspecting women via the digital platforms using fake profiles of Caucasian men with luxury vehicles and large sums of cash. They would build trust with their victims and promise them expensive gifts such as designer clothing, jewellery, etc.
The victim would later be contacted by a local associate confirming the arrival of their “fancy” gifts and request their contact number and other personal information.
SOCU continued that the local accomplice would contact the victim again but this time requesting that the individual deposit cash to a specified local Bank Account or via a Money Transfer Agency to cover brokerage fees, customs duties, penalties and/or shipping charges for the package. Once the payment is made, the suspects would never contact the victim again.
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