Fraudulent Estate Agents | Collect Money From As Many As 100 People For Same Accommodation


FRAUDULENT ESTATE AGENTS ON THE PROWL
 • Collect money from as many as 100 people for same accommodation
The fear of estate agents, especially, in Lagos State, may just be the beginning of wisdom. These agents collect money from as many people as they can find, for the same accommodation and end up bolting with the money. Their victims are legion.

 Charles Okolie, a staff of one of the communication companies, was on transfer from Cross River State to Lagos. He lodged in a hotel for about two months and was desperately searching for a three-bedroom flat, to enable him relocate his family to Lagos.

 He was introduced to an estate agent at the Lekki Phase II area of Lagos. The agent asked him to pay what he called registration fee of N2, 000 and N3, 000, for transportation, to aid the search for an apartment for Okolie.

 One fateful Saturday, the agent called Okolie on phone, with the news that he had secured a befitting apartment for him. Okolie was excited at the news and immediately headed to Lekki to inspect the building. He was taken to an apartment quite alright, which he liked. He paid N1. 7 million for the apartment and the drama started.
 After Okolie paid the money, he was asked to pack in whenever he wanted. When he got there he discovered that the keys o the apartment had been changed.

 He said: “I used the key given to me by the agent and tried to open the door but to no avail. I called him on phone and it was switched off. Till date, I have not been able to reach him on phone,” he bemoaned.
 Vowing to get to the root of the matter, Okolie said he decided to trace the owner of the house and when he eventually saw him, the man denied knowing the said agent.

 Okolie reported the matter to the police, but the cops are yet to arrest the agent and his accomplices.
 The story of Okolie is one out of many that have been swindled by fake estate agents and land developers.
 October 22, 2011, would have been Justine Okafor’s happiest day. It was a day the 38-year-old man, would have tied the nuptial knot with his heartthrob, Tonia. Before the D-day, he decided to secure a two-bedroom flat. He actually paid for one at Animashaun, Suru-Lere area of Lagos. But as he carried his property to the area, hoping to move into the flat he paid for, he discovered that another person was already living in it there.
 When he went looking for the agent, he found out that he was being detained at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba. On inquiry, he was told that the suspect swindled over 100 persons of a whopping sum of N20 million. The victim was referred to the office of the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Oduduwa Street, GRA, Ikeja, for more information.

 On getting to PRO’s office, Okafor saw a crowd of victims, who were swindled by the same estate developer. The victim, who spoke to this reporter, narrated how he’s now squatting with one of his friends, after paying N800, 000 to a supposed estate agent.

 In the case of Otubor (other names withheld), he fainted immediately he realised that an estate agent had duped him. His wife had thrown him out, following some misunderstanding. He contacted a moneylender at the Iju area of Lagos, who lent him money with which he paid for a mini flat at Animashaun area. He paid for a mini-flat and the estate agent did not provide any accommodation.
 Now, the victim is paying back the loan from the moneylender with interest. His money is gone and he has no accommodation

 A 60-year-old woman, Martha Elobe, who came to Lagos to look after her daughter, who just put to bed, told Saturday Sun her sad story.

 “I don’t have a place to sleep, as my daughter and her husband have been duped by one Yusuf. Even, as I am talking to you now, my daughter and I are sleeping inside her husband’s car, while he sleeps in his office.”
 According to her, the daughter put to bed while still living in her friend’s house. “The day they wanted to move into the house Yusuf claimed he rented to them was the same day I arrived Lagos. But we were not allowed to move in, as the police said the estate agent was a suspected criminal. Police had warned that anybody who moved into the flats did so illegally, and at his/her own risk,” she said.
 The embittered grandmother explained that she had no other alternative than to go back to the village with her daughter and child, waiting for the matter to be resolved.

 The former Lagos State Police Command spokesman, Mr. Samuel Jinadu, who paraded the suspect to newsmen, raised the alarm over increasing cases of obtaining under false pretence, by estate agents and land developers in the state. He recalled how two men were also arrested for swindling over 200 victims of the sum of N100 million. He noted that most of their victims were widows, widowers, those preparing to wed, factory workers and retirees, among others.

 Jinadu, who was not happy the way innocent persons were being swindled in the city, had warned that the police would not fold their arms and watch innocent people lose their hard-earned money to fraudsters.
 “No, no, no, we must do something. The commissioner of police has started thinking of what to do in that direction,” Jinadu fumed.

 Pointing at Yusuf, he said the suspect knew he had only six flats available for rent, but collected money from 100 persons. “You knew you were swindling the victims; you are a dupe; you must go in for it,” he further threatened.
 Assuring the victims of police determination to recover their money from the suspect, he said: “We are going to use our intelligence officers to find out where he deposited the N20 million. If he used it to develop other property, we will find out,” he said.
 Jinadu gave assurance that the police would bring Yusuf to justice, to serve as a deterrent to other unscrupulous estate developers in the country.

 The victims, who staged a protest in Ikeja, demanded the suspect’s head, saying: “He deserved to die.” Some of them even threatened to burn down the affected house, if the police failed to recover their money from the suspect.
 For Theresa Mgbemene, the last Christmas celebration was the worst that she ever had since her 48 years of existence on earth.

 She was said to have pooled her resources and paid for an accommodation for two years, at Apapa area of the metropolis. Her desire to secure a new accommodation left her stranded when she discovered that it was a fraud.
 The Delta State-born woman, who narrated her ordeal to Saturday Sun said when she was given a quit notice by her former landlord, she was not bothered, as she quickly raised some money to secure another apartment.
 According to her, she was happy, when she paid for a two-bedroom apartment at the Olodi Apapa area. According to her, the estate developer issued a receipt to her, indicating that she actually paid for the flat. Also, the key to the flat was given to her.

 The victim said she got a shocker when she hired a truck that conveyed her property to the supposedly new apartment, only to meet another person in the same flat she paid for. “I could not believe what I saw,” she said.
 When she summoned courage and knocked on the door, a man came out and told her that he paid for the same flat and had packed in. As they were still arguing, another victim came in and brandished a receipt, which indicated that he also paid for the same contentious flat. As if that was not enough, other victims started coming in trickles for the same apartment.

 Saturday Sun gathered that day over 60 victims laying claims to the flat arrived. Realizing that they had been duped, they reported to the police. At the police station, they discovered that the fraudulent estate agent collected over N90 million from over 100 persons, for the same apartment.
 A source at the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Millerton Road, Ikoyi, told Saturday Sun that hundreds of cases, bordering on swindling accommodation seekers, by some unscrupulous land developers and estate agents had been investigated.

 The senior police officer, who also expressed worry over the rising cases of fraud committed by estate agents, warned members of the public to be wary of those they give their money for accommodation. “There are many jobless people in our streets. Some of them were internet fraudsters, but since the advance fee fraud is no longer lucrative, the dupes resort to presenting themselves as estate agents, to defraud hapless citizens,” he said.
 He advised people to always contact the police before paying money to estate agents, while suggesting that, rather than going to unknown estate agents, people should go to the ones that have reputation.
 The police officer revealed that a female suspect, simply identified as Abiola, was also arrested for belonging to a syndicate, which specialised in cloning Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).

 He said the syndicate had wanted to sell a land in Lekki area of Lagos, to a company (names withheld) for N95 million. According to him, the syndicate introduced an elderly man to them, as the rightful owner of the land, adding that when the man, who earlier admitted ownership, was asked to follow the prospective buyer to the Ministry of Land and Survey, Alausa, Ikeja, to verify the claim, he declined. He said police stepped in, only to discover that the syndicate wanted to defraud the company.

 The Commissioner of Police in charge of SFU, Mr. Chinwike Asadu, confirmed that they are investigating many cases of fraudulent land developers, who swindled innocent victims, but refused to reveal the number of arrests and those swindled.
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