The Bellville Commercial Crimes Court Cape Town, has sentenced a Nigerian fraudster Chinonso Pascal Eze, who ran an online dating scam in which he duped unsuspecting women out of over R1 035 030 (N26m) Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Eric Ntabazalila said in a statement that Eze, 36, was on Thursday, April 29, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted on 23 counts of fraud and nine counts of money laundering. Eze entered into a plea and sentencing agreement with the State on Thursday and confessed to being part of a syndicate which operated an online dating scam.
He told the court the ultimate goal was to secure large sums of money from “unsuspecting victims”.The court heard that Eze and members of the syndicate reached out to victims through dating sites. He groomed women, gaining their trust, and then requested money from them in “emergencies”. Ntabazalila said the syndicate created fake dating profiles using the names Marcos Ivan, Michael Brandy Smart and Craig Thompson. The profiles portrayed wealthy men who were in a position to repay the victims, and this was a deliberate action to create a false sense of security in the victims. In the first incident, Eze pretended to be Ivan and communicated with the victim via a dating site and even sent her photos of “himself”.
Eze, gaining the trust of his victim, managed to swindle a total of R314 950 between November 2017 and January 2018. In the second incident, Eze pretended to be Smart, where he used the same modus operandi and managed to swindle a total of R186 080 that was deposited into accounts held by four people. The third victim spent the most money. Using the same modus operandi, Eze managed to convince his victim to deposit R534 000 into bank accounts held by various people. In total, Eze swindled his victims out of R1 035 030.
Evidence before the court revealed that the money was transferred and withdrawn from bank accounts held by Yolanda Mange, R. Mapheelle, Hako XB, LC Sihepo, Global Shipping, LF Coe, O. Dlikilili and P. Mendrew, forming the basis for money laundering.
Senior State advocate Lucinda Mcani told the court that the offences committed by Eze contained elements of premeditation and argued that the offences were grave. Eze was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for the 23 counts of fraud, four years of which are suspended for a period of five years on condition that he is not found guilty of fraud during this time.
He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for money laundering of which five years were suspended for five years on condition that he is not found guilty of money laundering during this time.
The court ordered his sentences to run concurrently, thus Eze will effectively serve six years in prison. The court also declared Eze unfit to possession of firearm.