$382,000 fraud: How suspect duped victims from 13 countries in bitcoins scam

A 1st prosecution witness in the trial of Eze Harrison Arinze, has told Justice J. K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, how Arinze received $382,000 worth of bitcoins from his victims before his account was blocked by his Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP).

The witness, Ogunjobi Olalekan, an officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, told the court that Arinze’s victims were deceived into withdrawing their funds and deposited them into Arinze’s bitcoin accounts, thinking that they were transacting legitimate businesses.

Arinze was arraigned on March 22, 2023, before Justice Omotosho, on five count charges bordering on obtaining by false pretence and money laundering to the tune of  $769,263, EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said in a statement.

One of the counts against him reads; “That you, Eze Harrison Arinze alias Charlotte Brain, sometimes between April, 2022 and December, 2022, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, did fraudulently impersonate one Charlotte Brain, a purported owner of Digitrades.Ltd/Digitrades.Net/Swiss-Earnings/Craystal-Trade investment platform on Telegram and in that assumed character obtained crypto currency worth $592,000.00(Five Hundred and Ninety Two Thousand USD) from your victims through your bitcoins wallet address-333…. Domiciled with Coinbase, a Virtual Assets Service Provider (VASP) and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 22(3)(b) Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, 2012 and Punishable under the same Act.”

Another count reads: “That you, Eze Harrison Arinze alias Charlotte Brain, while being the owner of Digitrades.Ltd/Digitrades.Net/Swiss-Earnings/Crystal-Trade, a purported investment platform on Telegram, sometime between 28th October, 2022 and 7th December, 2022, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, with the intent to defraud, obtained 9.771 bitcoins worth $168,000.00(One Hundred and Sixty Eight Thousand US Dollars) transferred to your bitcoins wallet address 333…, domiciled with a Coinbase, a Virtual Assets Service Provider (VASP) under the false pretence that the said sum is for crypto currency investments, which you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(a) of the  Advance Fee Fraud and Other  Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.”

He pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were read to him.

At the resumed trial of the case, Olalekan told the court that: “We requested for users on the platform who have deposited crypto currency to the defendant’s account and their names were provided. About thirty persons on the platforms deposited various sums of bitcoin to the defendant’s  account”.

Continuing, he explained that: “those that were identified were from thirteen different countries- the total inflow to his bitcoin wallet address based on the response was about 15.5btc valued around $382,000 and the defendant has withdrawn about 5btc before it was blocked.”

“We got the information of these users who deposited the funds, showing their user identities, location, money deposited at different intervals,  wallet addresses where these funds were sent to at different intervals”, he said.  He further stated that other vital information like “the amount they sent, dollar equivalent,  email addresses of depositors,  transaction identities”, were also disclosed.

Olalekan told the court that 28 out of the 30 depositors were reached  through  their email addresses to establish the purpose of the various sums they  deposited in the defendant’s  account and what they knew about   “Swiss-Coin, Swiss earning, Swiss coins and Digitrades.ltd.”

 After listening to the witness testimony, Justice Omotosho adjourned the matter for continuation to June 14, 2023 and ordered the remand of the defendant in Kuje Correctional Centre.

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