Ghanaian jailed 12 years for identity theft

essien1A Ghanaian has been jailed for 12 years in Singapore for identity theft.

The man, 33-year-old Essien Emmanuel was sentenced Wednesday January 21, 2009 for his involvement in the cloning of credit cards and theft of cash from Citibank auto-teller machines, Singaporean media and press have reported.

Emmanuel pleaded guilty in December 2008 to 12 charges of conspiracy to commit theft and access to the bank’s computer systems as well as having materials and machine to make false instruments.

According to the reports, he stood before a district court which heard that Emmanuel, who faced 228 charges, used at least 99 fake credit cards with information skimmed from genuine ones to withdraw at least $50,000 from Ctibank ATMs in that country.

He had in is possesion at least 780 blank magnetic strip cards specifically designed or adapted to receive data electronically to make fake credit cards, the reports said.

He had a co-conspirator, known as Charly Nwanne, who was described in court as a syndicate member operating in London. But the reports did not say if he had also been arrested.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Oh was quoted by the media as saying Emmanuel remotely accessed his co-conspirator’s details of stolen credit cards in Singapore via e-mail. He then used the information to encode the magnetic strips on blank cards to create cloned credit cards.

Acting on a report by Citibank, security officers arrested him and his wife at the basement of of a shopping centre: the Paragon shopping centre on June 19.

Before his arrest, he had reportedly within four days, illegally withdrawn cash from Citibank ATMs using cloned credit or ATM cards containing genuine cardholders’ data.

Following his arrest, Commercial Affairs Department officers seized a laptop, a card encoder and more than 780 magnetic strip cards from his apartment at Somerset Road, one of Singapore’s commercial areas, where the famous Phoenix Hotel is located.

His wife, whose name was not disclosed in the reports was given a stern warning and deported to Ghana.

Emmanuel’s lawyer, Ms Gloria James, in her arguments said her client was a victim of desperation and was therefore, manipulated by Nwanne who took advantage of his situation.

She told the court that relatives and friends from his church in Ghana, which was also not identified in the reports, had helped him raise $11,726 as restitution.

Pronouncing judgement, District Judge Ch’ng Lye Beng backdated the sentence to June 19, 2008.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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