Warrant of arrest for online scam suspect

By Drum Digital
11 March 2015

A warrant of arrest was issued on Wednesday for a man who failed to appear in a Cape Town court on fraud charges relating to an online dating scam.

Nigerian national Stephen Ikechukwu Onweni failed to appear in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, causing Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg to enforce the forfeiting of his R5000 bail.

He failed to make his first appearance last month, causing his lawyer Joshua Greeff to withdraw from the matter.

In the February proceedings, Greeff said Onweni had not been in touch with him, nor did Greeff know his whereabouts or reason for his absence.

Prosecutor Juan Agulhas requested a warrant for his arrest, but only to be executed, without further delay, if Onweni again failed to appear on Wednesday.

Aside from the Onweni case, there are currently three other online dating scam cases running in the commercial crimes court.

One of these is that of Nigerian Muyiwa Obafeni, 35, who is accused of fraud through an online dating scam. His trial would start in May.

Onweni allegedly created false online dating profiles and targeted vulnerable individuals by grooming them and building trust, and then asking for money for false emergencies.

The personalities Onweni allegedly created were supposedly from exotic foreign countries, and victims were duped into paying for all kinds of fake expenses.

One victim was Hendrika Bezuidenhout, of Somerset West, who started chatting online in July 2012 with a man named Franklin Giovanni Young, in England.

Young claimed to be a computer engineer working for JP Morgan Bank and Standard Bank.

Three weeks later, Young told Bezuidenhout he had gone to Malaysia, where he had suffered a heart seizure, and that he was waiting for an inheritance of US320,000 from JP Morgan Bank, to send to South Africa.

As confirmation of this, Young sent Bezuidenhout a forged inheritance certificate on a JP Morgan Bank letterhead.

However, the funds had to be cleared, costing R30,000, which Bezuidenhout paid, for the inheritance to be paid into a USB Swiss bank account, and from there into a Nedbank account.

Bezuidenhout later received numerous e-mails from JP Morgan bank, requesting further payments, according to the charge sheet.

She was later asked to pay an undisclosed sum into an FNB account but, because she delayed, the funds in JP Morgan Bank were frozen and she had to pay a penalty of R175,000.

This was followed by a call from a Mr Brown, purportedly from the Bank of England, confirming the inheritance had been paid into a Bank of England account, and that she was now the owner of the inheritance.

The State alleges that Bezuidenhout never received the money, nor was she refunded any of the clearance money she paid.

-SAPA

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