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(PICTURE) Dismissed ASP, three others arrested for bank fraud

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The suspects with Okpara (right)

The activities of a four-man syndicate that specialises in defrauding banks of huge sums of money have come to an end in Port Harcourt as the gang members, including a dismissed Assistant Superintendent of Police, Augustine Okpara, are now behind bars following their pursuit of wealth by any means.

Everyday may be for the thief, but there is always a day for the owner of the house, which has clearly come to pass in the current predicament of the suspected fraudsters. CRIME DIGEST learnt that the syndicate made quick money by conniving with dispatch riders of banks to defraud the finance houses of huge sums of money.

Led by the dismissed ASP, the gang was said to have defrauded some unsuspecting banks through the theft of their cheques in transit. One may begin to wonder how the hoodlums thought about this crime and how they were able to convince dispatch riders carrying the cheques for clearing to divert such important items to them.

Other members of the group identified as Wogu Silvanus, Charles Odigbo and Princewill Uchendu, it was gathered, always took directives from Okpara, whose skills on how to unlock bank safety boxes were not in doubt. While Silvanus, the dispatch rider, diverted the boxes containing the cheques, Okpara would carefully take a cheque with a high amount on it.

CRIME DIGEST learnt that after waiting for a few days, the former police officer would go ahead to cash the money and celebrate his success with the members of his gang.

Police sources alleged that to achieve his aim, Okpara was in possession of a master key, which he used in unlocking bank safety boxes in order to have access to their contents, an allegation the leader of the gang denied.

The successful run of the alleged conmen ended recently when the gang’s plot to defraud a new generation bank, using the bank’s dispatch rider, failed as the bank called in the police.

The disappearance of a N4.6m cheque in the custody of the dispatch rider (Silvanus), raised the suspicion of concerned bank officials, who called the officers of the Rivers State Police Command, who promptly arrested the dispatch rider. The cheque, which was brought to the bank, was supposed to be cleared within a week, but its strange disappearance compelled the bank to call in the police.

The police decided to begin their investigation based on the movement of the N4.6m-cheque from the bank to another bank, where it would be cleared and readied for payment to the customer.

The dispatch rider, who was the prime suspect, upon interrogation, confessed to diverting the box containing the cheques to Okpara, identified as the arrowhead of the gang. This led to the arrest of the 45-year-old dismissed police officer and two other members of the syndicate.

“Silvanus always diverts boxes to the leader of the gang when the cheques are going for clearing. It is at this point the gang leader will now open the boxes with his master key,” a police official at the Olu Obasanjo Police Station told CRIME DIGEST.

The dispatch rider explained that he joined Okpara in the business after being promised good returns. He added that he had been promised N800,000 if the last operation that landed the gang members in soup had been successful. “They said they wanted to introduce me to a business, but I did not know it was this kind of thing. It is the work of the devil,” Silvanus stated.

Odigbo, a former courier company worker, admitted that he collected the cheque to be deposited in one of the banks. The suspect, who said it was the first time he would be involved in such crime, described his involvement in the act as the work of the devil.

Okpara, who refused to state why he was dismissed from the police, claimed he was introduced to the business by Charles, denying that he used a master key. He said the bank boxes were not locked before they were brought to him.

The Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Dr. Rita Inoma-Abbey, said security operatives decided to intervene in the matter when the affected bank reported the case of a missing cheque to the command.

Inoma-Abbey explained that the dispatch rider, who was later interrogated, confessed to the crime and led the police to arrest others. The PPRO said, “On February 4, 2011, the bank reported to the police that one of its cheques was missing. They called the dispatch driver who stated what happened and the police got involved. Investigation into the matter is still on. We will charge the suspects to court at the end of the investigation.”

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Posted by on Feb 19 2011. Filed under Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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