EFCC charges American with N196.2m green card fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday arraigned an American, Marco Ramirez, in an Ikeja Special Offences Court for allegedly defrauding two Nigerians on the pretext of helping them secure US green card scam.

He was alleged to have defrauded three Nigerians- Mr. Godson Echejue, Mr. Abubakar Umar and Mr. Olukayode Sodimu of $545, 000  (about N196, 200, 000) from February 2013 to August 2013 in Lagos.

He had pleaded not guilty to the alleged offences and was admitted to bail in the sum of $250,000.

Ramirez, alleged by the EFCC to be a serial fraudster was previously arraigned on June 22, 2017, before Justice Josephine Oyefeso, on a 16-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining under false pretences.

However, midway into the trial, the case file was transferred from Justice Oyefeso’s court to Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court for a speedy conclusion of the case.

On June 20, he was re-arraigned before Justice Mojisola Dada on an amended 12-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining under false pretense for defrauding Echejue, Umar and Sodimu of $1.2million.

He is standing trial in all the criminal suits alongside his companies – U.S.A Now LLC, Eagle Ford Instalodge Group LP and U.S.A Now Capital Group.

Ramirez and his companies have however been arraigned on Monday by the EFCC on a fresh nine-count charge of obtaining money by false pretences.

He allegedly defrauding two more Nigerians – Gabriel Edeoghon and Oludare Talabi of 388,838 dollars.

According to Mrs. Vera Aigboje, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Ramirez committed the alleged offences in 2013 and 2014 in Lagos.

“From May 22 to July 26, 2013, Ramirez on three occasions received a total of 291,290 dollars from Edeoghon.

“From Feb. 28, 2014, to April 17, 2014, Ramirez on six occasions received $97,549 from Talabi.

“He falsely represented to the defendants that the funds were investments into his companies in the Employment-Based Fifth Preference (EB-5) United States of America Investor Programme.

“Ramirez also falsely informed the complainants that their investments will qualify them to be eligible for a USA Green Card. “The offences contravenes Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act,” Aigboje said.

Following the arraignment, the defence counsel, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole, requested that the American enjoyed the bail he had been granted by Justice Josephine Oyefeso in 2017.

“He has been on administrative bail in the earlier matter since 2017 on conditions which we feel are enough to guarantee his presence before this honourable court.

“The condition given by Justice Oyefeso is that he be admitted to bail in the sum of 250,000 dollars which was complied with and he was never absent in court,” Oyewole said.

Justice Dada obliged Oyewole’s request and ordered that certified true copy of Justice Oyefeso’s bail ruling be properly presented before the court. She adjourned the case until October 10 for trial.

Immediately after the arraignment, the EFCC’s “sister case” against Ramirez for defrauding three Nigerians commenced.

EFCC investigator, Mr. Usman Aliyu, testified as the first prosecution witness.

Aliyu, while being led in evidence by the EFCC prosecuting counsel, Mr. M.F. Owele, described how Ramirez defrauded the complainants.

He said in November 2015 while he was working in the Intelligence and Special Operations Section (ISOS) of the EFCC, the anti-graft agency received a petition from the law chambers of Festus Keyamo about Ramirez’s alleged fraudulent activities.

“The petition was written on behalf of Echejue, Umar and Sodimu.

“It was alleged that sometime in 2013, the first defendant (Ramirez) organized a seminar in Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos.

“At the seminar, he made a presentation that whoever is desirous to have an American green card should invest $500,000 and a $45,000 processing fee into the American economy in a programme known as the EB-5 programme.

“My Lord the EB-5 programme is actually a US citizenship and immigration service.

“It states that any eligible immigrant that wants to invest in the American economy in areas that have low employment rate will be entitled to a two-year stay after which a green card is provided,” he said.

Aliyu stated that as part of the EFCC’s investigation into the scam, the complainants were contacted and they provided documents and evidence of payment of the funds they were scammed of.

The EFCC investigator noted that frantic efforts were also made to apprehend Ramirez and that the American Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) revealed to the EFCC that Ramirez was a serial conman.

“After frantic efforts to locate the first defendant, he was eventually arrested at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja.

“An FBI agent was invited; he came, had a discussion with the team and he informed us that the first defendant and his companies are facing similar cases in the United States of America,” Aliyu said.

The prosecution tendered 36 documents including Ramirez’s statement, statements of the complainants, proof of payment from the complainants, documents from the FBI and EFCC as exhibits.

Justice Dada adjourned the case until Oct. 8 and Oct. 10 for the continuation of trial.

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