EFCC arraigns U.S. citizen over $388.838 green card fraud
An American national, Marco Antonio Ramirez, was yesterday arraigned before Justice Mojisola Dada of an Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos for allegedly defrauding Nigerians of $388,838.88 in a United States green card scam.
Ramirez was arraigned alongside his companies; USA NOW LLC, Eagle Ford Instaldodge Group LP and USA Now Energy Capital Group LP by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The defendant, who pleaded not guilty, was docked on a nine-count charge bordering on obtaining money by false pretence.
The anti-graft commission alleged that Ramirez obtained the money from different people under false representation that the money was for an investment in his company, USA NOW Energy Capital Group LP in the employment-based forth preference (EB-5), a United States of America investor programme, which will qualify them to be eligible for USA green card.
The prosecution counsel, Mrs. Vera Aigboje, said the offence contravened Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences act, No 14 of 2006.
Also, the defendants were alleged to have obtained the total sum of $388,838.88 from Oludare Talabi and Gabriel Ogie Edeoghon in various tranches.
Following his plea of not guilty, the defence counsel, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), prayed the court to allow defendants continue on bail granted him earlier by a sister judge, Justice Josephine Oyefeso.
Oyewole told the court that he had filed application for bail of the defendants dated August 21, 2019.
The defence lawyer said: “The charges in both cases are almost the same, but in the interest of justice, we will narrow down the issue. He had been admitted to bail in 2016 on conditions that guaranteed his presence before the court.”
Immediately after the arraignment, an EFCC investigator, Mr. Usman Aliyu, testified against Ramirez for defrauding three Nigerians commenced.
Usman, an investigator with the Economic Governance Unit of the anti-graft agency, while being led in evidence by Mr. M.F. Owele, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, described how Ramirez defrauded the complainants.
He said that in November 2015, while he was working at the Intelligence and Special Operations Section (ISOS) of the EFCC, the anti-graft agency received a petition from the law chambers of Festus Keyamo (SAN) about Ramirez’s alleged fraudulent activities.
“The petition was written on behalf of Echejue, Umar and Sodimu. It was alleged that sometime in 2013, the first defendant (Ramirez) organised a seminar in Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos.
“At the seminar, he made a representation that whoever is desirous to have an American green card should invest $500,000 and a $45,000 processing fee into the American economy in a programme known as the EB-5 programme.
“My Lord, the EB-5 programme is actually a US citizenship and immigration service.
“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 is provided,” he said.
Aliyu stated that as part of the EFCC’s investigation into the scam, the complainants were contacted and they provided documents and evidence of payment of the funds they were scammed of.
The EFCC investigator noted that frantic efforts were also made to apprehend Ramirez by the anti-graft agency and that the American Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) revealed to the EFCC that Ramirez was a serial conman.
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