Nigerian authorities are investigating a convicted fraudster who allegedly managed to run one of the country’s most successful internet fraud scams, but from behind bars.
Hope Olusegun Aroke, aka H-Money, is said to have coordinated schemes by a “network of accomplices” from the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prisons in Lagos.
Officials put the amount accrued from his scams in jail in the region of $1 million.
Aroke was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 24 years in prison in 2012. But authorities have now found that things did not actually go downhill from there for him.
Initial investigations showed that Aroke had access to reliable internet from jail. Nigerian prisoners are not allowed access to the internet.
An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) statement on Tuesday noted that it had received information about Aroke’s maneuverings from jail but was looking into how he could have pulled it off in a heavily secured prison.
Aroke was once a student in Malaysia and the EFCC say it was where he became an “arrowhead of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents”.
But he has told the EFCC this week that he was allowed to use a phone and connected to the internet too in prison. And another time, while he was supposed to be on admission at the Nigeria Police Hospital in Lagos, Aroke was able to attend social functions as well as see his wife and kids.
Two bank accounts have been opened by him under the false name “Akinwunmi Sorinmade” and the convict has bought a car and homes since his imprisonment.
The BBC reports that many in Nigeria have been shocked by the success of the scam from prison. It is also a popular opinion that this could not have happened without the cooperation of corrupt prison authorities.
Internet fraud is an economic and social menace that has given Nigeria a bad name for over a decade. The phenomenon is even mocked by Hollywood in TV shows.
However, in a country with very few economic opportunities even for the educated, “Yahoo Yahoo” as internet fraud is known, has passionate participants from all across the country.
Successful internet fraudsters are role models for millions of Nigerian youth.