For seven years Onyeachonam, 38, targeted the elderly and extracted sums between £2,000 and £600,000 in order to fund his lavish lifestyle. Onyeachonam, of Canning Town, East London, sent emails to victims claiming that they had won millions of pounds on an Australian lottery that did not actually exist. Onyeachonam would then persuade victims to part with an initial sum of money to cover the ‘processing fee’ required to release their fictitious prize. After paying an initial fee victims were then asked to make additional payments to secure their “prize”.
When police raided Onyeachonam‘s luxury flat in Canary Wharf, they found an abundance of evidence including notebooks containing the names, addresses and amounts paid by over 400 victims. The full extent of the scam is still unknown but Onyeachonman's victims were defrauded out of at least £5 million but this figure could be as high as £30 million.
Onyeachonam wasn’t shy about his plush lifestyle and regularly posted pictures on his Facebook account that showed off his love for designer clothes, Rolex watches and cars. One picture even shows a fridge full of his preferred drink, Ace of Spades champagne, which costs between £300 and £500 a bottle. While Onyeachonam was enjoying the high life, many of his victims were forced out of retirement just so they could repay the high-interest loans they had taken out to cover the ‘processing fees’ for prizes that didn’t exist.
Onyeachonam, a married father of two, wasn’t the only perpetrator brought to justice at the Old Bailey yesterday. Fellow con men Lawrencia Emenyonu, 38 and Bernard Armah, 51, both of Wood Green, North London, were also jailed for their part in the scam. Both men were found guilty of money laundering with Emenyonu sentenced to 18 months in prison while Armah was sentenced to eight months.
While Onyeachonam ran the lottery scam from the UK, the mastermind behind the entire operation is based in Lagos, Nigeria and is currently under investigation by authorities there.
Unfortunately scams like this are big business and are growing ever more ingenious. Technology has resulted in a huge increase in the number and variety of scams being operated as email has allowed a quick and inexpensive way of contacting potential victims. The fraudsters pile on pressure by including various clauses in the ‘winner notification’ which often include a tight deadline to claim the prize and a ‘confidentiality clause’ to deter the recipient from speaking about their supposed win to friends or family who may then alert them to the fact that it is a scam. If you, or someone you know, has received a similar communication then advice is available at GetSafeOnline or if you have been a victim of internet fraud, you can contact the City of London Police.