Untitled design (17)

By Tim O’Dwyer

John and Sue Anderson (not their real names) knew about the costs and risks involved in using an estate agent to sell their home. So they went DIY – Do It Yourself – with a pretty neat internet package promoting their acreage property.

Enquiries quickly arrived from scores of scouting agents saying they had buyers interested in a home just like this. No thanks, said John and Sue. Politely at first. Later more firmly, as the agents persisted. Then a promising email came from overseas.

A foreign professional gentleman, with quite passable English, was interested in the “property in concern”. He explained that because his government job was coming to an end he wished to settle down with his family “in a far distance country”.

“Engineer Victor Odewale”, as he described himself, sought further information about the Andersons’ home and more pictures to show his family. Within days of emailing these, John and Sue were delighted to receive Victor’s prompt reply. He was “really intrested in purshasing this property”, his wife was “very excited” about it and – best of all – he would pay the listed price.

“We have always looked forward to retiring and bringing up our lovely children in your country,” Victor enthused. His dream was “coming into reality”. He was also glad he was “dealing directly with the owner of this property which makes it more easier.”

Victor wanted to close the deal “as timely as possible” because his wife and children were in a United Nations refugee camp “for safe keeping due to the present political unrest and war”.

They would proceed to Australia where Victor’s wife would take care of the “legal documentation” while Victor arranged a transfer of 65% of the purchase price. The balance would be “remitted to you as soon as my wife and kids arrives your country.”

John and Sue were touched when Victor thanked them for their understanding and anticipated cooperation, attached pictures of himself and his family and looked forward to knowing more about John and Sue’s family “for the sake of familiarity.”

“God Bless you”, concluded this effusive email from Liberia.

houseWhen the Andersons asked me to arrange the “legal documentation”, I smelled a Liberian, if not Nigerian, rat. My trusting clients were unaware of the notorious Nigerian fax and email scams tried out world-wide over many years – mostly on business and professional people. I showed them some of the Nigerian-type emails which come into my law office every week. These usually mention a plane crash, millions of US dollars needing to be got out of Africa and how a reliable person such as myself can assist. I am guaranteed 20% of the total sum for my efforts which will be “100% risk and trouble free.” I also mentioned Brisbane solicitor, Paul Crowley, who was jailed after pleading guilty to charges of misappropriation and uttering false bank documents. He lost $4 million dollars of a client’s trust money in a Nigerian scam.

Crowley was not the last stupid, greedy and gullible professional. Last year a Melbourne financial manager, Robert Street, pleaded guilty to charges of obtaining a financial advantage by deception. He fleeced his clients of more than $1 million to pour down a Nigerian black hole. He will be sentenced (most likely to jail) this week.

We gave “Engineer Victor Odewale” the benefit of the doubt, and suggested he engage a conveyancing solicitor. Neither my firm, nor my clients, heard from him again.

Recently a New Zealand website (www.internet-fraud.com) opened a forum to expose Victor Odewale and his methods. He is after only small fish, although he seems to cast his cunning net far and wide. So far he has contacted DIY sellers in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, U.S.A., Canada and Spain. Folk who deal with him are eventually invited to open a bank account in the Channel Islands with some of their money so he can transfer his funds there. When this “bank” was checked out, it turned out to be one of several entities falsely claiming to be banks as part of an elaborate fraud. Victor sometimes offers to transfer $6,000 to your local bank, but you need to send $4,500 back to an offshore account. One couple in Kansas City received his $6,000 cheque, but their bank later discovered it was a forgery.

No one admits having lost money in this “Liberian buying a house” scam, but lots of little people in lots of places probably have. They may be just too embarrassed to tell anyone.

If you are a DIY seller, beware of Victor Odewale and his aliases (or imitators): Engineer Joseph Gambo, Engineer Elvis Weah, Mark Weah, Davis Kosasihdavis (from Indonesia) and Mrs. Elizabeth Gumbo (from Sudan).

One Australian post to the Internet-Fraud website puts it this way: “In the land of Oz we do not like being taken down by scum such as Victor. So look out Victor. Your time is very limited, mate.”

This article first appeared on http://www.reic.com.au/2007/05/04/beware-this-nigerian-style-real-estate-scam/.