The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has advised the general public to be vigilant in order not to fall victim to new tricks deployed by car thieves.
Acting EFCC Spokesperson, Mr Tony Orilade, in a press statement on Monday, said the alert was borne out of shocking discoveries made during investigations into allegations against one Babatunde Oluwatope Oni aka Olu Daniel, Oni Daniel Oluwatope.
He said Babatunde, who hails from Odo Eri, Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi state, was recently arrested by the Ibadan zonal office of the commission for alleged conspiracy, stealing, and issuance of dud cheque, following a petition received from one Kamoru Yekini on November 21, 2018.
Orilade said the petition alleged that on October 16, 2018, two men approached him at his shop at Iwo Town, Osun state, to indicate interest in purchasing a 2006 Toyota Matrix car he displayed for sale.
After negotiation on the price, the two parties agreed on N1,580,000, and a post-dated First Bank cheque was issued supposedly to cover the cost. The cheque bore the name Rabiu Bamidele Lateef as the account owner but in order to veil his criminal intention, Babatunde allegedly acted as a driver to the other suspect (now at large), with whom he came for the negotiation.
He said the suspect’s partner falsely introduced himself as the account owner and a Doctor at Bowen University, Iwo, and having agreed on price, Bamidele left the scene to reportedly deposit the money and later came with a copy of the deposit slip as an evidence of payment of the agreed sum.
Though not comfortable with the payment arrangement, the car dealer still reluctantly released the vehicle and the custom duty papers, hoping that he could contact the buyer through his phone number should any issue arise.
The complainant, however, got a call from his bank the following day that the cheque has been returned unpaid due to insufficient funds and all efforts he made to get the suspects proved abortive since all the information given turned out to be false.
The spokesperson said the commission’s investigation led to the recovery of the car in Abuja where it was already sold to a lady for N1.8 million, just as further investigations tracked the car back to Babatunde, who was later arrested in his hideout in Abuja.
He said while Babatunde was already in the EFCC’s custody, another complainant surfaced with a similar issue that on September 7, 2018, two men came to his filling station around Mokola, Ibadan, Oyo state, to negotiate for a 2007 Toyota Avensis car he displayed for sale.
According to the complainant, after the negotiation, they agreed for N2 million Bamidele immediately issued a cheque of N2 million, purportedly as payment for the car.
Just as he did in the other case, Babatunde, again acted as the driver to a ‘big man’ he came with and also took the cheque to the seller’s bank to ‘deposit’ the sum, and came back with a deposit slip.
While they were already testing the car, the car dealer told the suspects to hold on for him to confirm the status of the deposit from his account officer.
But before he could do that, Bamidele and his partner zoomed off with the car since the car keys and papers had already been handed over to them.
The cheque with which he made the ‘payment’ was later returned unpaid and all efforts made to contact the men proved abortive.
Orilade said investigation by the EFCC revealed that Babatunde’s modus operandi was to issue cheques to car dealers and leave with the car and such cheques were either stolen from unsuspecting Nigerians or are linked to unfunded accounts.
He said apart from stealing people’s cheques and issuing dud cheques to commit acts of fraud, investigations also showed that Bamidele often used fictitious names in some of his criminal transactions.
The spokesperson said when asked about the identities of his accomplices in the operations Bamidele gave the name as Santar Ademola, who, he alleged, was late at the time of his arrest.
Further investigations, the spokesperson said, revealed that sometime in 2017 Bamidele was prosecuted by a sister agency for similar offence but was released from prison custody where he was remanded when the complainant stopped showing interest.
“Members of the public are by this report advised to be wary when transacting business with people they do not know,” he said.