Detectives attached to the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Milverton, Ikoyi, Lagos State, have arrested 11 suspected fraudsters, among them three bankers and MTN workers, for allegedly infiltrating customers’ accounts and withdrawing over N150 million.
The bankers are Oyelade Shola-Isaac (32), Osuolale Hammid (40) and Akeem Adesina (33). The MTN workers are Okpetu John (29), Chukwumnoso Ifeanyi (30) and Salako Abdulsalam (30), an ICT specialist.
Others are Ismaeel Salami (49), Akinola Oghuan (34), Sarumi Abubakar (32), James Idagu (56) and Sunday Okeke (33).
The suspects allegedly connived and withdrew customers’ money from their bank accounts.
The SFU spokesman, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Mr Lawal Audu, disclosed that the suspects were arrested in Lagos, Ibadan and Ilorin.
Describing the suspects’ modus operandi, Audu said the job of the bankers was to provide the syndicate with information of the bank customers, which they knew had a lot of money. They steal the money through internet banking and would later share it.
He said: “The work of the MTN workers is to assist the syndicate in swapping SIM cards of targeted bank customers, so that they would be unable to receive alert of transactions on their accounts within the period the accounts were tampered with. The suspects, after successful withdrawal of the money, transfer it into about 40 different accounts with ATM, to avoid detention.”
According to him, the suspects usually carry out their operations during the weekends and public holidays, to evade being detected by the bank monitoring mechanisms.
Audu noted that police tracked and located the syndicate while the members were holding meeting at an eatery on Bode Thomas Street, Surulere, Lagos State, concluding on how to carry out another fraud.
He said: “The plan of the syndicate was to defraud another new generation bank between May 26 and 29. Policemen stormed the venue and one of the major kingpins, Alhaji Ismaeel Salami, and four others were arrested. They were used as bait to catch other members of the gang residing and operating in Ibadan, Oyo State and Ilorin, Kwara State.”
Audu disclosed that 35 ATM cards, affixed with account numbers and passwords were immediately recovered from the suspects at the eatery.
He added: “The syndicate usually sourced for bank ATM cards from their owners, especially from youths, deceiving them to release their ATM cards, account numbers and passwords for eventual monetary rewards based on the amount their cards received.”
Salami, alleged leader of the syndicate, denied collecting the ATM cards from people to carry out nefarious activities.
He said: “I was in eatery at Surulere with my friends when policemen came to arrest us. They said we were into fraud. It was in May that a friend of mine, Moses, asked me to get some ATM cards for him. I didn’t ask him what he wanted to do with them. I contacted another person to assist me to get the card.
“I came across Abubakar at Ibadan, who happened to be my friend’s younger brother. To my surprise, he brought about 40 cards to me. When police took us to their office, they said we were involved in fraud.”
Stating his own side of the story, Abubakar said that he got some of the ATM cards from his friends.
He recounted: “When I was contacted to get the cards, I didn’t know what they wanted to used them for. My plan was that if I could get the cards, I would make some money. That was why I went to my friends to collect their cards. I gave them to Salami. If I had known that they wanted to use the cards for criminal purpose, I wouldn’t have got myself involved.”
Shola, who works in a bank, said: “I don’t know anything about fraud. I was moved from my former branch to another within Ibadan metropolis. One fateful day, my manager called me to come to his office. He said that my car was blocking someone’s own. When I got there, I was told someone used my password for fraud. He said that my two brothers had also confessed to the crime; that was how we were transferred to SUF in Lagos on Tuesday last week.”
Hammid, another banker, said: “My ATM card was faulty, so I gave it to an engineer in the bank to fix for me. I was told when I was arrested, that they saw my picture in the CCTV footage of the bank, thereby committed fraud. I don’t know anything about the fraud. It was when I went to see the funds loader in the ATM machine that the camera caught me. I was only trying to fix my card. I don’t know anything about the fraud.”
Ifeanyi, who works with MTN, also denied knowing anything about the fraud. He insisted that his co-worker swapped the SIM cards.
Okpetu said he was only swapping SIM cards, whenever the cards were brought to him. He said he didn’t know what they were using the cards for.