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How American defrauded me of $145,000: Nigerian businessman

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A Nigerian businessman, Mr Olukayode Sodimu, on Friday told an Ikeja Special Offences Court how an American and alleged serial conman, Marco Ramirez, defrauded him of 145,000 dollars in a green card scam.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that Ramirez is accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of defrauding five Lagos-based Nigerians of $1.5 million.

Ramirez faces two separate criminal suits at the Special Offences Court.

He is standing trial alongside his companies – USA Now LLC, Eagle Ford Instalodge Group LP and USA Now Capital Group.

In the first suit, the American is accused of allegedly defrauding two Nigerians – Gabriel Edeoghon and Oludare Talabi of $388,838.

In the second suit, he allegedly defrauded three Nigerians- Amb. Godson Echejue, Mr Abubakar Umar and Sodimu of $1.2 million.

While being led in evidence by Mr M. F. Owede, the EFCC’s Prosecuting Counsel, Sodimu told the court that he first got to know Ramirez and his company in 2013 through an advertisement in the Guardian Newspapers for an Employment-based Fifth Preference (EB-5) American Investment programme.

“The advert in the paper said that USA Now LLC, is the regional centre for the EB-5 Investment Programme and that one can invest $500,000 in the investment.

“It stated that by investing $500,000, the investor and his children under 21-years of age will be issued a U.S. Green Card, which implies permanent residency in the U.S.”

Sodimu told the court that after seeing the advert, he verified the authenticity of the programme and that he found out online that such programme exists and that he attended a seminar which was advertised in the newspapers to be holding in Eko Hotels.

He said that at the seminar, Ramirez gave a lecture and that after the lecture, he had a meeting with Ramirez.

“The defendant mentioned that a number of Nigerians have benefited from the programme that they had either received green card or are about to get green card through his offers.

“He presented Umar who is the second Prosecution Witness (PW2) in this case as someone who had paid his $500,000 and Umar’s process had gotten to the final stage and he was about to do his medicals.

“I believed him and I chose to participate. I met him several times after that day to verify his claims and make enquiries. He gave me a brochure that had some explanations and stated that had he had American Government backing for the programme.

“He gave me a pre-qualification questionnaire. I filled it and he took it back to the United States.

“I got an email from a lady he told me was his personal assistant. Based on the responses on the questionnaire I was given sets of forms and requirements I had to meet,” he said.

The businessman said he was required to pay $500,000 to a separate account called an investment account and that he was required to pay an additional $45,000 for administrative fees into the defendant’s bank account.

“He said that being an investment, the $500,000 is repayable with interest after five-years. I read through the agreement given to me before paying a kobo.

“The agreement made it clear that all the money, including the $45,000 is refundable if the investor is not accepted by the American Government.”

Sodimu said that in June 2013, he paid the $45,000 administrative fee in five tranches within a week and two months later he paid $100,000 which was the first installment of the $500,000 investment fee.

“As at the time the $100,000 was transferred, I had the whole money but in naira. The banking regulation is that one can only register such amount of money from the inflow from the proceeds of export.

“At the time I could only get $100,000 in tranches and the defendant was putting so much pressure on me.”

Sodimu said that while he was figuring out how he was going to get the balance of the $500,000 investment fee, he found out via the internet that Ramirez and his spouse were under investigation by the FBI in America for fraud.

“When I saw the news report, I was very worried and very concerned. I called Marco and I told him what I saw on the internet. He confirmed it but said it was just a minor problem and it will soon be resolved.

“I took a flight to the U.S. a few days later to find out what was going on and I had a meeting with him and from the discussion I realised things were far worse than he claimed on the phone.

“I spoke to his lawyer and officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Texas and I found out that he was under investigation by the FBI, following a petition by his victims.

“When it became obvious that I could have been duped, I remembered some people I saw during the seminar and I made some phone calls and I was able to identify four people who were in similar or worse situations than mine.”

Sodimu told the court that he and other alleged victims of the American made several fruitless efforts to contact him to refund their money.

When they realised they had been duped, Sodimu said they petitioned the EFCC through the law firm of Festus Keyamo and Co.

He said that in 2015, he and the other victims learnt that Ramirez was still coming to Nigeria to transact businesses.

He said the American was apprehended by the anti-graft agency during one of his business visits to Nigeria.

“Till now he has not paid me back the $145,000 neither has he issued me a green card,” Sodimu said.

NAN reports that according to the EFCC, Ramirez committed the offences between February 2013 and August 2013 in Lagos.

He is alleged to have defrauded Sodimu, Amb. Godson Echejue and Mr Abubakar Umar of a total of $1.2 million.

The offences contravene Section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, No. 14 of 2006. For continuation of trial.

Justice Mojisola Dada adjourned the case to Nov. 13 for continuation of trial.

MAE/SN

Edited by Silas Nwoha

 

 

Foreign

Namibian gov’t condemns brutal killing of African-American citizen in United States

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Namibia has expressed deep outrage and condemned the brutal killing of George Floyd by U.S. police that took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States.

Namibia’s Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation in a statement issued Tuesday said it has been following with great concern the events surrounding the death of George Floyd.

The Namibian government has since expressed its solidarity with the African-American sisters and brothers and has called on all to exercise restraint in venting their legitimate and justified anger.

“Racism is a crime against humanity and should have no place in any society anywhere in the world,” Namibia’s deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said in the statement.

Nandi-Ndaitwah meanwhile called on the government of the United States to deploy all efforts at ensuring that the rights and human dignity of all its citizens, including in particular the African-Americans and all other minorities are upheld, respected and protected under law.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Nigerian newspaper decries African American glass ceiling

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Blacks in the United States are unable to reach their full potential because of a glass ceiling created by whites, according to an article in a Nigerian national newspaper.

The article in This Day, under the title “The Mindless Murder of George Floyd,” asked, “Why are many blacks targeted in needless killings by the white cops? What crime have they committed? Is it a crime to be black? What happened to diversity and inclusiveness?”

African American George Floyd was killed after a white police kneeled on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes until he stopped breathing.

In a video, the victim was heard saying “I can’t breathe” while three other police officers stood by.

The incident has triggered protests against racism in the United States, forcing curfews to be declared in several parts of the country.

Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat called on authorities in the United States to intensify their efforts to “ensure the total elimination of all forms of discrimination based on race or ethnic origin.”

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Commentary: The coming suffocation of the American dream

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“I can’t breathe,” black man George Floyd struggled to repeat as Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck last week in the United States city of Minneapolis. Eight minutes and 46 seconds later, Floyd died. A day later, protests against racism and police brutality erupted, spreading rapidly across the United States in six days.

Floyd’s desperate dying plea echoed the last words of Eric Garner, another African American man who died in police custody in 2014 in New York. Garner‘s death also ignited high-profile protests nationwide. United States TV network NBC news exclaimed on Monday that “from Eric Garner to George Floyd: protests reveal how little has changed in 6 years.”

Racism has been a chronic problem in the United States, with a history almost as old as the country itself. Floyd’s death serves as a new, chilling reminder that racial discrimination seems to be showing no signs of improvement among the American population.

In a report entitled Race in America 2019, released in April by the Pew Center, 58 percent of Americans surveyed in 2019 say race relations in the United States are bad, and of those, few see them improving. Some 56 percent think the current administration has made race relations worse.

The ravaging coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, has served to highlight the long tradition of racial inequality in the United States, after recent data compiled by the non-partisan APM Research Lab revealed that African Americans are suffering a disproportionate share of the negative health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

With a death toll of more than 20,000, African Americans are dying at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, the data showed.

What’s more, Washington’s promise of equality and justice for all in the country has remained hollow at best. For many black and other minority groups, the American dream of equal opportunity and upward social mobility irrespective of race is slipping away.

Take the job markets for example. Even before the pandemic hit the United States, the unemployment rate among African Americans was almost twice the national rate.

As of now, the coronavirus outbreak has been distributing economic pain even more unevenly. With the national unemployment rate rising to 14.7 percent in April, black and Hispanic unemployment rates have jumped to 16.7 percent and 18.9 percent respectively, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported early May.

However, those problems themselves are not the most terrible part of a deeply-divided America — Washington’s continued failure to come up with any serious answers is. And the current White House administration has made matters worse.

Amid the ongoing anti-racism protests in the country, decision-makers in Washington, instead of trying to sooth the pain and anger of the public, have been fanning the flames, calling protesters “THUGS,” and threatening them with “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons.”

Playing the race card has been the trademark of this administration. It remains fresh in the mind that this administration rolled out an executive order that banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the country and suspended the entry of all Syrian refugees indefinitely only one week after assuming power.

And in the middle of the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic, this administration has been busy deporting Latin American migrants back to southern-neighboring countries, showing little care that such mass deportation could make the pandemic situation in the region worse.

And because of Washington’s reckless disinformation campaign to scapegoat China for its own fiasco in handling the outbreak, prejudice and hate crimes targeting Chinese and other groups of Asian origin have also shot up.

An Ipsos poll in April found that over 30 percent of Americans have witnessed COVID-19 bias against Asians. The STOP AAPI HATE reporting center, tasked to track coronavirus discrimination-related cases, has received 1,710 incident reports from Asian Americans across the country since mid-March.

It seems the incumbent United States administration has been leading the country in an increasingly polarized American political environment by dividing the American public, and appealing to the worst of humanity. That divide-to-win tactic will only form and reinforce a vicious cycle where division triggers more hostility, and further hostility begets greater racial alienation.

Many in the United States love to describe their country as a nation of immigrants. It once truly was. But now, with one I-can’t-breathe case after another, the day when the American dream that used to celebrate ethnic diversity and equal opportunity will finally be choked to death seems not far away.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Protests over killing of African American held in Dublin

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Two separate protests were held here on Sunday over the brutal killing of an African American in the United States, reported Irish national radio and television broadcaster RTE.

One was held outside the United States embassy in Ballsbridge, an area in Dublin where many diplomatic missions are located, while another was carried out outside the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Ireland inside Phoenix Park, the largest public park in the country, according to the report.

About 100 people took part in the protest outside the U.S. embassy, said the report.

Photos carried by the report showed that people of different colors gathered at the main entrance of the U.S. embassy, holding up placards and shouting slogans.

Slogans written on the placards include “I can’t breathe,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for George Floyd,” said the report.

The report didn’t mention the number of people protesting outside the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, nor did it mention the names of the organizers of the two protests.

Both protests were peaceful, said the report.

George Floyd was an African American who stopped breathing after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for minutes. In a video, the victim was heard repeatedly begging the police officers around him “I can’t breathe.”

The incident has triggered violent protests against racism in the United States, forcing curfews to be declared in many parts of the country.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

I Can’t Breathe: U.S. police brutality against African Americans

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The police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man, in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota on Monday evening has sparked waves of outrage across the United States.

For the fourth straight night following the death of Floyd at the hands of a white police officer while in custody, thousands of demonstrators have poured into streets in multiple U.S. cities to denounce the police brutality and racial discrimination.

The latest instance of police violence has once again brought the public attention to the racial divide which has kept tearing the U.S. society apart. (Xinhua/Wang Ying, Michael Nagle, Angus Alexander, Marcus DiPaola, Bao Dandan, Gu Xingnan, Yin Bogu, Jim Vondruska, Dane Iwata)

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Backgrounder: U.S. police brutality against African Americans

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The police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man, in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota on Monday evening has sparked waves of outrage across the United States.

For the fourth straight night following the death of Floyd at the hands of a white police officer while in custody, thousands of demonstrators have poured into streets in multiple U.S. cities to denounce the police brutality and racial discrimination.

The latest instance of police violence has once again brought the public attention to the racial divide which has kept tearing the U.S. society apart.

The following is a list of major racial riots between police and African Americans in recent years.

On June 19, 2018, Antwon Rose Jr., a 17-year-old African American teenager, was shot three times in the back by an East Pittsburgh police officer in Allegheny County as he fled a car suspected to be involved in an earlier shooting on that day.

Rose’s death sparked days of demonstrations in Pittsburgh demanding justice before his funeral, as protesters questioned police officer Michael Rosfeld‘s use of deadly force.

On Sept. 20, 2016, Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old African American, was fatally shot by police in the city of Charlotte in North Carolina, southeastern United States, sparking protests by African Americans against racial discrimination and injustice by police.

On Aug. 13, 2016, a confrontation between police and protestors turned violent in Milwaukee in the midwestern U.S. state of Wisconsin, after a police officer killed an armed 23-year-old African American trying to escape from two police officers who had stopped his car.

In April 2015, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American, died in a Baltimore hospital after he was arrested for possessing what the police alleged to be an illegal switchblade.

Gray’s death sparked protests and riots in the city in northeastern United States. One year later, U.S. prosecutors dropped all charges against six police officers accused in the arrest and death of Gray.

On Aug. 9, 2014, 18-year-old African American Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking over two weeks of unrest and clashes between protesters and law enforcement in the town where most of the population are black.

On July 17, 2014, a cellphone recorded an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe” when a New York officer held him in a chokehold before his death in police custody. Garner’s last words were the same ones Floyd spoke as the officer knelt on his neck before he died.

Almost five years later, federal prosecutors said the officer who caused the death of Garner would not face criminal charges.

In July 2012, protestors clashed with police over two separate shootings in the city of Anaheim, southern California. Manuel Diaz, 25, and Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21, who were claimed by the police as gang members, were shot dead by police officers.

Protesters set fires, smashed windows and threw rocks at officers. The riots ended with 24 arrests and several injuries.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Respect and good care? What older Americans really get in this “Older Americans Month”

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(Source: Xinhua)

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Foreign

UN rights chief urges U.S. to take “serious action” to stop police killings of African Americans

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U.S. authorities must take “serious action” to halt police killings of unarmed African Americans, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Thursday, condemning the killing of an African American while in police custody in Minneapolis.

George Floyd died on Monday evening shortly after a white police officer held him down with a knee on his neck though the black man in his 40s repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” and “please, I can’t breathe.”

This is the latest in “a long line of killings of unarmed African Americans by U.S. police officers and members of the public,” Bachelet said in a statement.

“Procedures must change, prevention systems must be put in place, and above all police officers who resort to excessive use of force, should be charged and convicted for the crimes committed,” to ensure that justice is done when they do occur, she said.

Welcomed the government’s decision to prioritize an investigation into the incident, Bachelet expressed concern that similar probes in the past had resulted in questionable justifications for killings.

“The role that entrenched and pervasive racial discrimination plays in such deaths must also be fully examined, properly recognized and dealt with”, she said.

While empathizing with the anger unleashed by Floyd’s killing, the high commissioner called on people in Minneapolis and elsewhere to protest peacefully.

“I urge protestors to express their demands for justice peacefully, and I urge the police to take utmost care not enflame the current situation even more with any further use of excessive force,” she said.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

U.S. must prevent police killings of African Americans, says UN rights chief

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U.S. authorities must act to stop police from killing unarmed African Americans, UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet demanded on Thursday after the latest deadly incident in Minneapolis.

Protests broke out in the Midwestern city over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died after a white police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck despite pleas that he could not breathe.

“This is the latest in a long line of killings of unarmed African Americans by U.S. police officers and members of the public,” UN High Commissioner Bachelet said.

Urging “serious action,” the former Chilean president said police procedures must change, prevention systems must be put in place, and officers should be charged and convicted for excessive use of force.

“The role that entrenched and pervasive racial discrimination plays in such deaths must also be fully examined, properly recognised and dealt with,” Bachelet added.

The UN high commissioner welcomed the launch of an investigation into Floyd’s death, but noted that similar probes in the past had resulted in questionable justifications for killings.

Bachelet said she understood the public anger unleashed by Floyd’s death, but asked protestors to refrain from violence and destruction.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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