NPA pays R2.1 million to the victom of 419 fraud scam

Pretoria: The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has paid a total amount of R2 148 136 to Mrs Angela Jean Kerslake (Mrs Kerslake), the victim of a 419 fraud scam. The AFU recovered the money from one of the suspects in the fraud scam, Wilfred Bemigho Ugburo (Ugburo).The successful recovery was due to excellent work by the South African Police Service (the SAPS) that played a vital role in apprehending Ugburo, and the successful recovery of the money. The NPA and the SAPS are committed to take drastic action to eradicate these fraudulent schemes, and to ensure that crime does not pay.

Background

419 scams are also known as advanced fee fraud schemes. It involves creating bogus business proposals which promise the recipients substantial financial reward for participating.

The fraudster requests the victim to pay a certain amount which is needed to unlock a huge amount of money, usually millions of US dollars or other foreign currency.

Once the victim agrees to be involved in the deal, the fraudster requests the payment of various ‘advance fees’, for example, to pay banking charges or bribes to ‘smooth the way’. Once a victim is ‘hooked’, the fraudsters make further requests for payments and collect as many of these fees as possible.

The details of the case

During July 2008 Mrs Kerslake was contacted by a fictitious person named Steve Watson (Watson), who pretended to be from an entity named British Imperial Fund Managers in England. Watson misled Mrs Kerslake to believe that he was handling investments on behalf of Susan Francine Kerslake (SF Kerslake), who had died from cancer, and had left Mrs Kerslake investments worth £4.2 million. One Carole Johnson (Johnson), supposedly from HSBC Bank in England, confirmed the inheritance.

A series of telephonic and electronic mail exchanges followed between Mrs Kerslake, Watson, Johnson and Brian Baker, a “lawyer” from the United Kingdom (the UK). Mrs Kerslake was misled into paying various attorneys’ fees and UK tax indemnity requirements in order to release the payment of the inheritance to her.

She made payments into the bank accounts of a number of entities. This included payments to Heisi Trading CC of R270 000 and R820 000 in September 2008. Ugburo was the only member of Heisi Trading CC.

However, the inheritance was never paid to Mrs Kerslake.

The AFU orders

On 28 March 2014 the AFU obtained an order freezing all Ugburo’s assets in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) in the Pretoria High Court. The AFU obtained the order on the basis that Ugburo worked with other unknown persons to defraud Kerslake and that the Heisi Trading CC bank account was used to commit the offence of money laundering in contravention of the POCA.

Ugburo has now paid the amount of R2 148 136 to the court appointed curator, and on 24 July 2015 the curator paid the amount to Mrs Kerslake as compensation for the losses she suffered.