Family members, prominent personalities, the clergy have all begged on behalf of a Nigerian fraudster who made it to Forbes by scamming innocent people of their hardearned money.
According to Premium Times, the family members, an employee, a pastor, and others related to a Nigerian business mogul undergoing trial, Obiwanne Okeke flooded a US court begging the judge in charge of his case for mercy and leniency.
In a series of letters of attestation to character sent to Rebecca Smith, the judge handling the case at a Virginia court, they expressed shock about the involvement of Mr Okeke in the unlawful activities and pleaded he be given a second chance.
They also pledged he would not take part in any unlawful act again.
Also known as Invictus Obi, Mr Okeke will be sentenced on Tuesday.
The 33-year-old and Chairman of Abuja-based Invictus Group, before his arrest in 2019, was listed as one of the influential young entrepreneurs recognised by Forbes.
Mr Okeke was nabbed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) which alleged he connived with certain individuals, some of whom remain at large, to defraud American companies and individuals over a period of at least four years.
One of his victims, Unatrac, a subsidiary of American heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, lost $11 million in spurious wire transfers, court documents showed.
Agents of the international security agency obtained an arrest warrant and intercepted the fraudster in the airport while returning to Nigeria after a brief visit to the U.S. in 2019.
However, after months of denying his involvement in the crime before a federal judge in the U.S. and argument over jurisdiction, he pleaded guilty to the allegation of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with American authorities last year June.
The guilty plea helped Mr Okeke, who was initially indicted on two counts of computer and wire fraud, to secure the withdrawal of the second charge that carries lesser sentence and fines.
As part of his deal with the U.S. government, he would now enjoy immunity from prosecution on the same matter in the U.S. Eastern District of Virginia.
The district would also confirm the validity of the plea agreement in case Mr Okeke is charged over the same offence in another jurisdiction. Although his sentencing was initially scheduled for October 22, 2020, it was postponed to Tuesday for reasons unknown to PREMIUM TIMES.
The conviction could see him spend 20 years behind bars with up to $250,000 in fines amongst other punishments, this newspaper gathered.
‘Temper justice with mercy’
Meanwhile, Mr Okeke’s lawyer, John Iweanoge, begged the court to sentence him to a substantially lower jail term than required by the law.
In the court documents, detailing the defendant’s position on the sentencing, which was exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Iweanoge argued that the guideline range of imprisonment of 97 to 121 months or 151-188 months “will be too much for someone of his age and status”.