By Sunday Okobi, with agency reports
His inclination to crime is worrisome. Much before he turned 25, he had devised ways of cheating the British system. And in 2005, the UK Immigration Service caught him after finding out that he had used a forged stamp on his travel passport to enable him to work in the country.
Quickly, he was deported to Nigeria.
At that time, Osas Odia, from Edo State, was just 25. It is not known how long he had worked before he was caught.
But he soon found his way back to the UK, after marrying a British nurse. The marriage is believed to have taken place in Nigeria. With a spousal visa, he got back into the UK and continued in his old ways.
Odia was said to have joined a group of Nigerian fraudsters who used different means of swindling unsuspecting members of the public. The fraud gang was said to have sent thousands of letters to people across the world telling them they had won millions in the lottery. A lottery that never was. Many people in Nigeria received similar mails.
The scam letters told the recipients they would have to send money to 'unlock' their huge windfall, which they had won in the said lottery.
Perhaps greedy people fell for the scam without asking themselves whether they actually played any such lottery to win the huge sum that was supposed to be awaiting them.
One victim, Betty McClellan, 62, wired £264,000 to the fraudsters to release her 'lottery win'.
When the big sum never arrived, Mrs McClellan was shot dead by her husband, Hersey McClellan, 63, in their Los Angeles home in 2010, for wasting the life savings of a family on a “gamble.” He then turned the gun on himself.
And that ended the story of the McClellans.
An elderly woman living in Bristol also lost £312,000 after she wrongly believed she had won £1.8 million in the Australian lottery.
But eventually, Odia did not escape justice. He was arraigned before a Crown court to account for his misdeeds.
Prosecutor Andrew Evans said the loss of the money had a devastating impact on the Bristol woman.
“She was buying a new home and intended to settle the balance from the winnings she was expecting,” he told Croydon Crown Court. “She is now living in sheltered accommodation and feels vulnerable and extremely embarrassed and her family has lost their inheritance.”
The victims also included a farmer from Indiana who lost £339,000 in the hope of winning £14.9 million and a Venezuelan businessman who lost £163,000.
The police, which investigated the network of the scammers, identified 13 victims worldwide, who each lost an average of £207,000, after they became convinced they were due to receive huge pay-outs.
Odia's role in the conspiracy was to launder some of the money which was sent by the victims through three bank accounts in his name.
The Nigerian pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder criminal property and was jailed for two years on Friday.
Odia was allowed to finish his degree before he was sentenced.
Delivering his judgment, Judge Jeremy Gold QC told Odia: “You are a man of some ability and you have just completed a degree and I hope that means you will not be tempted to return to this sort of offending. “You played a full part in laundering the proceeds of a sophisticated fraud.”
The revelations of the depth of the fraud and its devastating effect on some homes shocked Odia’s lawyer, Paul Brill.
According to him, 'He (Odia) is alarmed and upset by the nature of the fraud and did not realise people's life savings were being taken so callously in the way they were.
“His previous conviction was for a false stamp in his passport that allowed him to work. He is not workshy and has a strong work ethic.”
It is understood that Odia will be allowed to stay in Britain when he is released because of his marital status.
The gang’s leaders, who spent the money realised from the scam deals on property, were jailed at an earlier hearing for conspiracy to defraud.
Obinnam Nwokolo, 37, of Erith, was jailed for six years and four months and Uchechhukwu Onuoha, 40, also of Erith, was jailed for five years and two months.
Another money launderer, Sergius Ene, 44, of Ilford, was jailed for 16 months.
Several cases like this had caused a review of immigration laws and a fiercer relationship with immigrants in the UK.