This is a new twist to real estate 419 scams used against unsuspecting real estate agent. In this case, the agent is a high profile, highly professional estate firm.
In the early hours of Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at about 7:17am, this writer received a call from someone who said his name is Gbenro, and that he is very interested to buy our fully furnished 5 bedroom detached duplex at Chevy View Estate, Chevron, Lekki, Lagos going for N88million. He assured during the telephone conversation that if he can view the property, and he likes what he sees, he will like to pay immediately.
With this assurance, we quickly arranged for the immediate inspection of the property at about 10:00am the same day. The current owners/vendors of the property – Mr. & Mrs. Augustine (not their real name, to protect their identity) are still living there; Mr. Augustine has just been transferred to the Abuja branch of his company, hence the need for relocation and sale of the property.
The notice for the inspection of the property given to the owners was very short since they were still living at the property, but they still agreed to it as they are willing and ready sellers.
The inspection took place at the agreed time, with the ‘client’ (Gbenro), his ‘father’ (whom we later found out to be the assistant 419) and two ladies. After the inspection and while still at the house, they confessed to really like the house and they negotiated the price with the owners. After a while, they both agreed to a price of N82million (including everything in the house such as furniture, fittings and fixtures). They also re-emphasized that they will like to pay immediately and take possession as they are relocating to Lagos; he claimed that Ekiti State Government demolished their house, hence the need for the rush to get an alternative accommodation in Lagos to relocate his family. We responded to him that we have laid down procedures to selling our houses which includes going to our office to fill the Property Purchase Data Form (PPD Form) to get acquainted with the purchaser(s) and to really get their brief. We also responded to the question on taking immediate possession after confirmation of payment; we said that may not be possible as the owners are still living at the property. As a matter of fact, the owners requested him to give them five (5) days to vacate the house from the day of confirmation of his payment; he responded that five (5) days is too long, and he enquired if the vendors can make one or two rooms available for them to stay pending the time they pack out. Here again, we intervened and made them to see the impossibility of their request as the couple lives in the house with their children. To help resolve this issue, we offered to them our shortlet accommodation which is a 4 bedroom terrace duplex at Hammed Kasunmu Street in the same Chevy View Estate going for N30,000 per night which they negotiated to N25,000 per night.
Upon mutual agreement on the above, we headed to our office for the ‘client’ to fill our PPD form, and we also prepared an offer letter for him. After this, he told us he was heading to the bank to effect the transfer for the purchase price of the property (N82million), professional fee of 5% of N82million (N4.1million) as well as deposit for the shortlet accommodation.
As we were patiently waiting for the credit alert, we also informed the vendors to stay close to their phone or call their account officer for confirmation as they are likely to get credit alert of N82million any moment. However, to our utmost amazement, he (Gbenro) called us at about 4:30pm to inform that the bank network was very bad, and that he was asked to come the following day; hence, he retired to the shortlet accommodation we gave him.
The following day (Wednesday, May 10), at about 9:00am he called that he was already processing the payment at the bank; we were very optimistic to hear that. However, he called at about 3:00pm that his account officer is not approving the payment because of the amount involved, and that he was asked to issue cheques of N10million each for the total amount. To this end, he promised to bring the cheques to our office the following morning. We advised that bank certified cheques (bank drafts) will be most ideal for this kind of transaction, but he said that the bank assured him that the cheques can suffice once they have been cleared in advance before presentation.
In the morning of Thursday, May 11, at about 11:00am, he came with his ‘father’ to our office, and gave us U. B.A. cheques of N10million (8 pieces) and 1 piece for the sum of N2million, making a total of N82million in favour of the vendors. In addition, he gave us a cheque of N4.35m to cover for our professional fee as well as payment for the period they are to stay at the shortlet accommodation. To our utmost surprise, the cheques were dated for Monday, May 15, 2017; he gave the reason for this as the advice from his bank, as he just filled an indemnity form at his bank (U.B.A., United Bank for Africa headquarters) to increase his maximum limit per day, and that this will go through approval, hence the date on the cheques. As expected, on a daily basis, we do give the vendors up-to-date information as to the progress of the transaction.
With the above development, we had to wait till Monday (May 15) before we could present the cheques for clearing. At about 9:00am on Monday, Gbenro called, he said the bank notified him that he forgot to sign the Indemnity Form which was filled the previous Thursday and hence, we shouldn’t present the cheques, he promised to head to the bank immediately to sign the form. He called in the afternoon to inform us that the Indemnity Form has been sign and we can go ahead to lodge the cheques the following day (Tuesday, May 16).
At about few minutes after 8:00am the following day, we went to lodge the cheques. It takes two (2) working days for cheques to clear, hence we were expecting to get value on Thursday, May 18.
However, we were bewildered when Gbenro called again on Wednesday, May 17 to inform that he was called from the bank that the cheques cannot go through clearing as his account officer placed a restriction in his account. He gave the reason for this that the account officer had been pleading with him since the commencement of the transaction not to withdraw such a huge amount of money, as the result will lead to her immediate dismissal from the bank – the bank will regard her as incompetent since she could not convince him against the withdrawal, or better still, to convince the house sellers/ vendors to open a U. B. A. account, so that the money will still remain in the bank. The argument looked logical as most bank will always encourage huge deposit as against withdrawal. To resolve this problem, he claimed that the bank manager is already aware of the hanky panky being played by the account officer, and that he (the bank manager) assured him that she would be queried for the professional misconduct. Going forward, he further informed that the bank manager advised him to raise bank drafts to avoid any further issue. To this end, he informed that the bank manager has been given an instruction to raise the bank drafts and he was informed to come the following day (Thursday, May 18) to get them, since it’s past the banking hour.
All this while, we were becoming very suspicious as the whole situation doesn’t seem to add up. The reason being that, when we advised on the issuance of bank drafts, he claimed that the bank assured that his personal cheques are equally good, howeer, the same bank is now advising him to raise bank draft. But we still decided to keep our cool and see where all this will lead to.
In the morning of Thursday, May 18 at about 9:30am, he called to inform that the bank drafts were ready, but they requested for copy of his valid identity card before releasing the bank draft, and that he left his international passport (the only valid I.D. Card he has) at his place in Temidire Ilogbo, Ekiti State; and because of the urgency of the transaction, he will need to travel down to Ekiti immediately to get it, and see if he can come back to Lagos the following day being Friday, May 19 to conclude everything, or better still, scan the I.D. Card to U.B.A. headquarters via any branch of U.B.A. at Ekiti.
The above scenario further raised our suspicion, and we immediately set up an investigation team in the office to look into the matter. The investigation team commenced the investigation by going to the shortlet accommodation in the evening of Friday, May 19 to interview the maiguard looking after the property on what he knows about the ‘client’. The maiguard said Gbenro and ‘his father’ have not been to the house since the previous day, to which we responded in the affirmative that he informed us to have travelled. The next statement from the maiguard was,‘oga, e be like say that man na 419 o’. That response really shocked the investigation team, and they further probed him to know what he meant by that statement. The maiguard narrated how he brought three ladies into the house two days before, slept with them and left the house.
After several hours, the ladies came out to meet with him (maiguard) to know Gbenro’s whereabout, because he had promised the three of them N110,000 to be shared N40,000, N40,000 and N30,000 accordingly. He also lied to them that the shortlet accommodation he’s lodging belonged to him and that he bought the property for N50million. The ladies requested for the phone number of the maiguard and also pleaded with him to call them whenever Gbenro comes back to the house, and they all left. Then, later in the night, the maiguard informed that Gbenro called him to find out if the ladies have left, to which he answered in the affirmative. It was upon that confirmation he came back to the house.
The above report was a big eye-opener to us, and from then we devised a strategy to get him and ‘his father’. He called on Sunday, May 21 to inform that he has gotten the international passport at Ekiti and that he will head to Lagos very early the following morning. He called us on Monday, May 22 at around 9:00am to inform that he has left Ekiti. At about 2:30pm, he called again that he was stucked in traffic at Lagos-Ibadan expressway (around MFM) due to the construction activities going on there. He called again at about 3:45pm to inform that he has left the traffic but that the bank manager informed him to come the following day (Tuesday) as the day is already gone. He also informed that he will be going straight to the house (the shortlet accommodation) they lodged to retire for the night.
On hearing this, we left the office to the property to lay siege for him. At about 6:45pm, he walked into the compound with his ‘father’, and our staff managing the shortlet accommodation (also a member of the investigation team) welcomed him and explained to him on the need to make payment for the entire period he had stayed at the property.
He pleaded severally that he had no money with him then, but that if we could follow them to UBA headquarters at Marina the following morning, we would get the money. This made the investigation team to reach a decision to sleep with them at the property so that they won’t escape. Very early on Tuesday (May 23) at about 6:00am, we drove them to UBA headquarters in Marina. On getting there, he was just perambulating around the banking hall like someone who is lost. Since we observed that he was just buying time, we took him and ‘his father’ to Ajah police station. After interrogation, examination and cross examination by the police chief, it was discovered that they were both 419ners (Gbenro and ‘his father’); and as a matter of fact, the old man later confessed that he is not his father, but his fellow con man . They were immediately detained and locked up at Ajah Police Cell. We were informed that they will be charged to court for fraud. The total amount they owed us for their period of stay at the shortlet accommodation amounted to N361,000; and it is very surprising that they couldn’t raise the money.
This encounter is still very fresh in the memory of every one of us at the Lagos branch of our company. We also found it very unbelievable, as it came at a time we least expected and it is also novel, in the sense that we had never experienced this kind of situation before.
This article was written by BlueHedge Realtors and it first appears in their newsletter. BlueHedge Realtors is a real estate company that is committed to meeting your needs.