A Lagos High Court, Igbosere, on Thursday sentenced an estate agent who is also a site engineer, Babatunde Habeeb, to 1,230 years imprisonment for duping unsuspecting accommodation seekers of N28 million, under false pretence of giving them accommodation.
Habeeb who is also known as Babatunde Salawudeen, is a younger brother to the 43 year old property developer, Alhaji Ishola Salawudeen, whom he connived with and duped the 101 prospective tenants to the tune of N28million.
The convict who is a resident of 59 Oriola
, in Alapere Ketu area of Lagos, was first arraigned before an Ebute-Metta Chief Magistrate’s Court with Ishola Salawudeen in 2013, and was granted bail, but later absconded.
Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye found Habeeb guilty of the first count charged and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment.
He was also sentenced to 15 years each from count two to 81, of the charge that was preferred against him.
Justice Ipaye said” the defendants were motivated by greed, they set out to con the victims out of their hard earned resources, am 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, as crimes like this portrays Nigeria in a bad light” She said.
The judge also said ” from the over whelming evidences and testimonies before the court, it shows that it was a delibrate ploy to defraud the prospective tenants.
“The Prosecution has been able to prove it’s case beyond reasonable doubt and I resolved all the issues in favour of the prosecution “.
Justice Ipaye said 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.
The Judge said: ” The property is hereby forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the property should be sold and the N28million refunded back to the victims”.
The Judge said that during the trial the prosecution called seven witnesses who testified before the court.
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 place and deposited N250,000, and later the balance of N150,000, and 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 convict was charged with 82 counts amended charge dated 15th December, 2015 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, bordering on conspiring with his elder brother Alahaji Ishola Salawudeen who is still at large and obtained under false pretence and fraud.
The convict who was arrested at Mushin area of Lagos where he went to work as a bricklayer, after he absconded, 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.
Earlier before handing down the sentence, the judge asked the convict’s lawyer if he had anything to say to the court.
The convict’s lawyer pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy, in sentencing him, adding that he is still a young man, who is married with a child.
He said ” the defendant is still a young man and his stay in prison custody has taught him a bitter lesson that there is no gain in crime. He is a married man with a child to cater for, we plead with the court to tamper justice with mercy “
The EFCC prosecutor Mr 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 at an Ikeja High Court in Lagos, that the defendants collected various sums of money from accommodation seekers between May and December 2013 in Lagos.
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.