Two charged for defrauding Catholic priest

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A 25-year old woman, Nkiruka Mbanaja, and a 33-year old man, Toyin Akindola, were on Friday arraigned at an Igbosere Magistrates’ Court in Lagos for forgery and fraud.

The two were charged with defrauding a Catholic priest of N350,000.

Mbanaja, who claimed to be a student of the Lagos State University (LASU), resides at No. 20, Ikotun Egbe Road, Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos, while Akindola, a businessman who lives at No. 37, Eleshin Street, Obalende, Lagos.

The suspects are jointly facing charges of conspiracy and forgery, while Mbanaja faces separate charges of impersonation, obtaining under false pretences and stealing.

They, however, denied the charges.

The prosecutor, Sgt. Orikutan Lonikola, told the court that the accused conspired to commit the offences in May at Eleshin Street, Obalende, Lagos.

Lonikola said that Mbanaja with an aide of Akindola’s, who ran a printing business, forged an academic certificate of the University of Ilorin.

The prosecutor said that Mbanaja had earlier in February at Saints Phillip and James Catholic Church, Km. 18, Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos, unlawfully impersonated one Ms. Fatima Hassan.

He said that Mbanaja, on the pretext of needing financial help from the parish, fraudulently obtained N350,000 from Rev. Fr. Francis Ogunmodede, the priest in-charge of the parish, through a series of phone calls.

Lonikola said that Mbanaja had earlier worked as a secretary in the parish but was sacked for unspecified reasons in 2010.

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He said Mbanaja was able to get the details of Hassan, a University of Ilorin student, who once received financial assistance from the parish.

This was as a result of her being privy to confidential information during the time she worked as a secretary in the parish, the prosecutor said.

Lonikola said that Mbanaja sometime in May impersonated Hassan and told the priest through several phone calls that she had graduated from the University of Ilorin with a first class degree.

She also alleged that she needed more money to pursue her postgraduate education abroad, the prosecutor said.

He said that Ogunmodede, who was already becoming suspicious of the development, asked Mbanaja to scan and e-mail one of her pictures and a copy of her certificate to him.

According to him, Mbanaja sent a fake picture and the forged certificate to Ogunmodede, who in turn, alerted the police authorities.

The prosecutor said the police were able to apprehend Mbanaja through a sting operation.

He said that the offences violated sections 285, 312(1), 363(1), 378 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.

NAN reports that Section 312 prescribes 15 years imprisonment for anyone found guilty of the offence of obtaining under false pretence.

The magistrate, Miss Mulikat Ali-Balogun, granted each of the accused bail in the sum of N500,000 with two sureties each in like sum.

The magistrate adjourned the case to July 10 for mention.