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Lagos ‘torture centre’: I was chained for eights months to be delivered from alcohol, drug – Victims narrate ordeal

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Lagos Centre

Some victims of a Lagos church used as a detention centre for mentally ill persons and persons suffering from various ailments and social vices have narrated their ordeal at the center.

Men of the Lagos State Police Command led by the Divisional Police Officer, Isheri-Osun Division, stormed the Blessing of Goodness Healing Church, located in Ijegun area of the state on Wednesday and rescued 15 victims chained inside a building on the church premises.

The pastor of the church, Joseph Ojo, was also arrested by the police.

The police stormed the church following a tip-off by the National President of the Eagle Crime Awareness and Prevention Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, Samuel Adam.

When PUNCH visited the Church on Thursday, four victims, some of whom were speaking incoherently, were seen chained to the ground.

Ojo, however, told Punch correspondent that the victims were chained because of their condition, adding that their parents brought them to the church for healing.

He said,

“The people were chained because of their condition. If I did not chain them, they would run. Many of them had put me in trouble in the past and that was why I chained them. When I see that they are healed, I unchain them.

“This is not a psychiatric hospital; all of them came for prayers and they had been taken to different psychiatric hospitals before they were brought to the church for deliverance. I saw the medical papers of some of them and it was when their parents tried conventional medicine and they were not cured that they brought them here.

“We do chain them for around three to four months and it is their families that do feed them; some of their family members come every day; some weekly; and some live with their children in the church. You may think that they are healed; for instance, one of them carried a big stone and wanted to use it to break another person’s head before he was stopped.”

One of the victims, Adewale Adetona, who had been chained for eight months, alleged that he was kidnapped and brought to the church by his family, adding that he was not happy staying in the church.

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The Oyo State indigene said,

“One early morning, I was kidnapped from where I was sleeping and taken to the church and I was staying there until the police came to rescue everybody from the church. I am not happy staying at the church, because I have my own life to live. I am just here; I can’t live my normal life and do what I want to do.

“There was no negotiation for me to be brought here. There are unstable people in the church, so what am I doing here? I feel embarrassed being chained, but I am happy that we have been rescued; since I got here, they never removed the chains from my legs.”

Adetona’s mother, Monsurat, however, said she took her son to the church for spiritual healing, adding that his behaviour was embarrassing her in public.

He usually misbehaves and I feel embarrassed about it. I have taken him to hospitals for healing before I heard of the church, where spiritual attacks are sorted out. But, if I told him to follow me there, he would refuse, that was why I forcefully brought him to the church in March this year and I have been seeing some improvement in his condition,” she stated.

Another victim, Solomon Ogbokri, said he was chained for eight months while supposedly being delivered of addiction to alcoholic, adding that his parents brought him to the church.

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Solomon’s father, Godspower, said he took his son to the church after several attempts to wean him of alcohol and hard drug addiction proved abortive.

The 65-year-old said,

“He goes about taking drugs like Indian hemp and roaming the streets; I prefer him in the church than roaming about, because he is now better. I don’t want him to go back to Ikeja, where he was taking drugs.

“I enrolled my son at the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, and another polytechnic in Ota, but he did not finish. I took him to the Fingers of God Rehabilitation Centre, the Synagogue Church of All Nations and the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, but there was no solution.”

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When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said the command had commenced investigation into the case, adding that 15 victims had been rescued from the church.

“We have rescued 15 victims and arrested 11 persons, including the pastor, Joseph Ojo. Some of the victims were said to have spent five years in the detention camp. The victims are between ages 19 and 50 and some of them were brought by their families. We have commenced investigation into the matter.”

 

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Lagos Centre

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Hushpuppi officially charged for fraud, faces up to 20 years in US prison – US Federal prosecutors

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Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, popularly known as Ray Hushpuppi now faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 20 years in a US federal prison after being extradited from Dubai to the United States.

In a statement released by the US Department of Justice, the suspected Nigerian fraudster was accused of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from Business Email Compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an English Premier League soccer club.

Hushpuppi made his initial U.S. court appearance this morning in Chicago, and he is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles in coming weeks.

Federal prosecutors who filed a criminal complaint filed on June 25, alleged that the suspected Nigerian fraudster is “one of the leaders of a transnational network that facilitates computer intrusions, fraudulent schemes (including BEC schemes), and money laundering, targeting victims around the world in schemes designed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.”

It was also alleged that Hushpuppi finances his opulent lifestyle of designer clothes, wearing expensive watches, posing in or with luxury cars and charter jets through crime.

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The statement partly reads;

BEC schemes as often involving a computer hacker gaining unauthorized access to a business’ email account, blocking or redirecting communications to and/or from that email account, and then using the compromised email account or a separate fraudulent email account to communicate with personnel from a victim company and to attempt to trick them into making an unauthorized wire transfer.

“BEC schemes are one of the most difficult cybercrimes we encounter as they typically involve a coordinated group of con artists scattered around the world who have experience with computer hacking and exploiting the international financial system,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna.

“This case targets a key player in a large, transnational conspiracy who was living an opulent lifestyle in another country while allegedly providing safe havens for stolen money around the world. As this case demonstrates, my office will continue to hold such criminals accountable, no matter where they live.

“In 2019 alone, the FBI recorded $1.7 billion in losses by companies and individuals victimized through business email compromise scams, the type of scheme Mr. Abbas is charged with conducting from abroad.

“Technology has essentially erased geographic boundaries leaving trans-national criminal syndicates to believe that they are beyond the reach of law enforcement. The success in this case was the direct result of our trusted partnerships between the Department of Justice and our federal law enforcement colleagues. These partnerships helped dismantle a sophisticated organized crime group who preyed upon unsuspecting businesses. It is thanks to these partnerships that the American people can feel a bit more secure today.”

“Hushpuppi and his suspected co-conspirators were accused of spearheading a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019. Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by them.

“He was also accused of conspiring to launder funds stolen in a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution in February 2019, in which the stolen money was sent to bank accounts around the world. Abbas allegedly provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe which he expected to receive €5 million (about $5.6 million) in each.

“The suspected Nigerian fraudster also allegedly conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including one scheme to steal £100 million (approximately $124 million) from an English Premier League soccer club, the complaint alleges.

“This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anil J. Antony and Joseph B. Woodring of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section. If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, Abbas would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.”

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Rivers: Woman, 40, remanded for allegedly killing husband

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Port Harcourt serial killer

In Port Harcourt, a Chief Magistrates’ Court sitting on Thursday remanded a 40-year-old woman identified as Telma Bestman for allegedly murdering her husband Mr Wagbara Bestman.

The suspect, it was learnt conspired with others now at large to kill the husband with a gun following disagreements between them.

It was gathered that the suspect and her accomplices who are still at large attacked the victim at their residence at 15 Chiwota Street, Rumuolumeni town in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State on February 13, 2020.

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The suspect a mother of four children is facing two counts bothering on murder.

The prosecutor, A. C Kennedy, told the Court that the offence of the accused is punishable under sections 324 and 319 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. II, Laws Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.

The Chief Magistrate, Ipalibo Iyiabo, transferred the case file to the Director, Public Prosecutions for advice.

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Iyiabo, however, remanded the accused at the Nigerian Correctional Service facility and adjourned the matter to August 3, 2020, for mention.

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Gunmen kidnap nine travellers in Ondo, demand N100million ransom

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No fewer than nine people have been reportedly abducted by some gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen at Isua Akoko, the headquarters of the Akoko South-East Local Government Area of Ondo on Friday evening.

The victims were said to be traveling in a Toyota Sienna bus from Abuja heading towards Lagos State before they were kidnapped.

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However, the details about their abduction were still sketchy as at the time of filing this report on Friday.

A source said the kidnappers have contacted the family of one of the victims and demanded a sum of N100m ransom.

The Public Relations Officer of the Ondo State Police Command, Tee-Leo Ikoro, who confirmed the incident said one of the victims had been rescued.

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He said, ” Efforts are on to ensure the release of other victims. Our men are working with hunters, local vigilante, and other agencies to get then released unhurt.”

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