The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Monday, arraigned an American, Marco Ramirez, before a Lagos State Special Offences Court for allegedly defrauding two Nigerians seeking the United States green card.
Ramirez, who had earlier been re-arraigned before Justice Mojisola Dada alongside his companies, U.S.A. Now LLC, Eagle Ford Instalodge Group LP and U.S.A. Now Capital Group, on amended 12 counts bordering on conspiracy and obtaining under false pretences by defrauding three Nigerians of $1.2m, was arraigned on Monday on fresh nine counts bordering on obtaining money by false pretences.
According to the EFCC, the defendant defrauded two other Nigerians, Gabriel Edeoghon and Oludare Talabi, of $388,838.
The EFCC prosecutor, Vera Aigboje, told the court that Ramirez committed the offences between 2013 and 2014 in Lagos.
She said, “From May 22 to July 26, 2013, Ramirez on three occasions received a total of $291,290 from Edeoghon, and from February 28, 2014, to April 17, 2014, Ramirez on six occasions received $97,549 from Talabi.
“He falsely represented to the victims that the funds were investments in his companies through the Employment-based Fifth Preference in the United States of America Investor Programme. Ramirez also falsely informed them that their investments would qualify them for the USA green card.”
According to Aigboje, the offences contravene Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act. Following the arraignment, Ramirez’s counsel, Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), requested that he should be allowed to enjoy the bail he was granted by Justice Josephine Oyefeso in 2017.
Justice Dada obliged the request and ordered that the Certified True Copy of Justice Oyefeso’s bail ruling be properly presented before the court. She adjourned the case till October 10 for trial.
However, after the ruling, the trial of the suspect for an alleged fraud of $1.2m commenced with an EFCC investigator, Usman Aliyu, testifying.
Usman, while being led in evidence by the prosecutor, M. F. Owele, narrated how Ramirez defrauded the complainants. According to him, the anti-graft agency, in November 2015, received a petition from the chambers of Festus Keyamo (SAN) about Ramirez’s alleged fraudulent activities.
He said, “The petition was written on behalf of Godson Echejue, Abubakar Umar and Olukayode Sodimu alleging that sometime in 2013, the first defendant organised a seminar at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos.
“At the seminar, he made a representation that whoever was desirous of obtaining the American green card should invest $500,000 and $45,000 processing fee in the American economy through the EB-5 programme. The EB-5 programme is actually a US citizenship and immigration service programme.
“It states that any eligible immigrant that wants to invest in the American economy in areas that have low employment rate will be entitled to a two-year stay after which a green card will be provided.”
The EFCC investigator noted that investigation by the anti-graft agency and the American Federal Bureau of Investigations revealed that Ramirez was a serial conman. Justice Dada adjourned the case till October 8 and October 10 for the continuation of trial. Punch