Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere yesterday convicted and sentenced an estate agent, Babatunde Habeeb to 1,230 years imprisonment for defrauding 101 unsuspecting accommodation seekers of N28 million, under the false pretence of giving them accommodation.
The estate agent, Habeeb, also known as Babatunde Salawudeen, was handed the verdict after the judge found him guilty of the 81 count charged brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He was sentenced to 15 years each on count two to count 81. Justice Ipaye also held that the sentence is to run concurrently, starting from March 12, 2014, when he was arrested by the EFCC.
She also forfeited the property which is now under EFCC’s custody to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The convict was charged with 82 counts amended charge dated 15 of December 2015 by the EFCC, bordering on conspiring with his elder brother Alhaji Ishola Salawudeen who is still at large.
The convict who was arrested at Mushin area of Lagos during his testimony before the court said that he was warned by his elder brother Ishola Salawudeen not to tell the victims that the 13 apartments had already been given out. He admitted collecting various sums of money from the victims, some of which were paid directly to him and some into his account and issued receipts to them.
In her judgment, Justice Ipaye held that the defendants were motivated by greed, saying, “they set out to corn the victims out of their hard earn resources, I’m satisfied that the convict and his brother acted together in the scam. “Considering the prevalence of the crime in the society there is a need to send a signal to others involved in it that crime doesn’t pay, as crimes like this portrays Nigeria in bad light.”
She added that, “From the over whelming evidences and testimonies before the court, it shows that it was a deliberate ploy to defraud the prospective tenants “. “The Prosecution has been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and I resolves all the issues in the favour of the prosecution. ”The property is hereby forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the property should be sold and the N28 million refunded back to the victims.” The Judge said that during the trial the prosecution called seven witnesses who testified before the court.
During the trial, one of the victims a 69-year old retired woman, Mrs. Mariam Eboigbe, had told the court that her son and his wife accompanied her to the office of the convict and deposited N250,000, and later the balance of N150,000. She claimed that she was told to come and collect the keys to the apartment on July 15, 2013, where she met other prospective tenants who also wanted to collect key for the same apartment. The EFCC counsel, Ben Ubi, told the court that he had filed an interim forfeiture of the property before a Federal High Court in Lagos, which was granted.
The EFCC counsel, Ubi, had alleged during the arraignment of the defendants that the defendants collected various sums of money from accommodation seekers between May and December 2013 in Lagos. Ubi said he obtained the money from the complainants under the pretence of securing accommodation for them at No.59, Oriola St., Alapere, Ketu, a Lagos suburb. He listed those swindled by the defendants to include Mrs Mariam Eboigbe, Vincent Anthony, Adebunmi Damola, Rilwan Lawal and Azeez Ogundiran, among others. Ubi said their offences contravened Sections 1(1) and 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act of 2006.