By Ifeanyi Okolie
THE gruesome killing of Cynthia Osokogu, the only daughter of Maj.-Gen. Frank Osokogu, (rtd) by two undergraduates on July 22, 2012, in Festac Town, Lagos State, has highlighted the frightening danger behind befriending strangers on the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, e.t.c.
Investigations by Crime Alert into the web of criminality associated with social networks revealed startling cases worse than that of Cynthia Osokogu. Such cases, unfortunately, involved mostly married women who out of adventure or deprivation, got engaged to male friends on the social network only to end up being photographed nude.
Checks carried out in and around Lagos revealed that those that befriend the mature women are usually young men who capitalize on the naivety of their victims to lure them into hotels or exclusive guest houses where they would end up being drugged. After which photographs of their nude encounters would be recorded and used to fleece them off millions of naira.
Many of these victims, over time, have found it increasingly difficult to confront their blackmailers for fear of having their nude photos posted on the internet or having their clandestine activities exposed to their husbands. Those who braced up to the challenge by damning the adverse consequences to lodge a report to the police always insisted on holding it close to their chests. They pay the police handsomely urging them not to reveal thier secret.s
Police sources who took part during investigation of some of these cases told Crime Alert that some of the suspects arrested during investigations of these blackmail cases were young men who were formally into internet fraud commonly known as Yahoo Yahoo. They reportedly resorted into blackmailing and robbing innocent unsuspecting social media users since internet scams became difficult to reap from.
*Hotel where Cynthia Osokogu was strangled to death
Sources also added that these cases are common within Festac Town, Satellite Town and Amuwo Odofin areas of Lagos State and they are perpetuated in hotels situated around obscured parts of these areas, the source who craved anonymity, stated.
It was discovered that most of these crimes are usually aided by some staff of the hotels where they are perpetuated. These hotels and guest houses are located in hidden corners of the estates or in some cases positioned at the end of street closes.
Normally, they are not easily identifiable as the owners deliberately or otherwise do not place signboards for easy location, especially by their victims. A Commercial motorcyclists who also spoke under the guise of anonymity narrated scaring stories about the physical condition of their passengers after visiting such hidden resorts.
According to one of them who identified himself as Innocent: “The problem is that police detectives do not want to use us to crack all these criminal cases. Any Okada man that tells you he does not know that such thing happens and where they normally happen is a liar.
“Those of us that are permanently in Festac and Amuwo-Odofin axis know both the women that have fallen victims and perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Women that fall victims are mostly those that go for young and appealling handsome men, either for fun or out of desperation to cheat on their spouses.
“They always go about with very flashy cars and when you see them, you do not need to be told that they are in desperate need of fun. There is a very strategic eatery positioned at Apple junction. This is where most of them book appointments and at the end of their meeting and end up in one hotel or guest house.
“Their male counterparts are always smartly dressed and some usually come with cars to ferry their victims to the hotels or they take over the steering from those rich women while going for rendezvous. We that know their exploits always notice the outlook of their female victims after the show because they will not only be looking unstable.
“Those of them that we carry normally forgot their residential addresses because of the fact that they were not only drugged but dispossessed of their valuables and they are always afraid of raising alarm because they called for it. Some even abandon their costly cars for days in such hotels until they recover from their stupor and go back to recover them.”
Police sources also hinted that they also carry out their nefarious activities by going through a potential victim’s profile and photos, making sure that she is suitable for them. Then they would engage them into any manner of conversation that would attract such woman to them.
It could be business, romance or what have you. After a while, they would cunningly lure them to any of the resorts either at Festac Town, Satellite Town or Amuwo Odofin area, where they operate safely. Then they would drug their victims and strip them naked after which they would take shots of them in their nude.
The sources said: “These blackmailers don’t usually go public with these photos, they contact their victims demanding huge sums of money with threats to make public the photos if their victims don’t cooperate. Meanwhile, some of their victims pay huge sums of money to these blackmailers, but they usually don’t stop asking.
We got some of these reports. They ask the victims to cooperate with them and also ask them to meet at a particular location, from where we arrested them. But one disturbing factor is the fact that we don’t have the right laws to prosecute some of these cases logically.”
It was gathered that one of the victims paid close to a million naira to her blackmailer before she reported the matter to the police recently. The victim who spoke with Crime Alert over the telephone said that she thought she was chatting with a normal human being on facebook before they met, and he got her drugged.
She said: “I thought he was a reasonable man when we started chatting on facebook. He was the one who aided me and was continually sending romantic messages to me. Each time I felt bored, I would call him to come online and we would chart for long hours.
“I stay in Port Harcourt with my family and on a day I had some business in Lagos, I called him to say I was coming and he was very glad. He begged I should stop at Mile 2 when I finished with what I came for. I was filled with anticipation over the meeting and I quickly rounded up my business and proceeded to see him. After we met, we went to a bar for drink. I don’t know how he did it, but after a few hours I started feeling very dizzy.
“He told me that he would get me into a hotel where I could get some rest and I agreed. That was all I could remember. I woke up the next day when the hotel officials knocked on my door only to discover I was completely naked. I don’t know how it happened. I managed to leave the hotel back to Port Harcourt and he started calling me.
First, he said I should pay N200,000 into an account or he would post my nude photos on the internet. I pleaded he shouldn’t do that and I ran quickly to the bank and paid the money. The extortion continued for almost one year and he took over N900,000 from me before I got the police involved and he was arrested.”
Crime Alert learnt that the recent arrest of some of the scammers, the police in Lagos have intensified efforts at rounding up perpetrators of this crime.
Owners of guest houses
To this effect, the State Police boss, Mr. Umar Manko has directed that a meeting of all the hoteliers and owners of guest houses in such identifiable areas should urgently be convened, where he is expected to read the riot act to them on their code of conduct and the possible resultant action the police would take against any of them whose outfit was discovered to be the rendezvous for such criminal acts.
The Police boss has also reportedly ordered a 24-hour surveillance and patrol of those areas suspected to be beehives for such act and has vowed to discipline any of his officers under whose jurisdiction such crimes are committed.
He said: “So far, undercover detectives have been deployed to all nooks and crannies of these areas especially Festac town, to fish out, not just potential victims but people who have fallen victims in the past, with a view to rounding up all those involved in the act.”