LAGOS, Nigeria — A man serving 24 years in a Nigerian maximum security prison used a network of accomplices to conduct an international scam that brought in $1 million, officials said.
Hope Olusegun Aroke was convicted of fraud four years ago and was held at a maximum-security prison in Lagos after his conviction, according to Nigeria’s economic and financial crimes commission.
While in prison, he worked with accomplices to commit fraud that targeted victims in various nations, the commission said in a statement Tuesday. During that time, he was taken to the hospital for an undisclosed illness and instead of returning to prison, he ended up in hotels, where he’d meet his wife and children, and attend social functions, authorities said.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that the convict, against established standard practice, had access to internet and mobile phone in the correctional center where he is supposed to be serving his jail term,” the commission said. “The circumstance of his admission into the hospital and those who aided his movement from the hospital to hotels and other social engagements is already being investigated.”
Wilson Uwujaren, a spokesman for the economic and financial crimes commission, declined to provide details on how Aroke was able to attend social events and get perks as an inmate. He said he cannot say whether he paid off prison officials in exchange for the brief freedom.
“All that is under investigation, I cannot speculate,” Uwujaren said when CNN reached him by phone.
To conduct his transactions, Aroke used a fake name, Akinwunmi Sorinmade, to open two accounts, authorities said. He also bought homes in posh neighborhoods and a series of luxury cars registered in his wife’s name, authorities said.
“The convict was also in possession of his wife’s bank account token in prison, which he used to freely transfer funds,” the commission said.
Aroke was arrested in 2012 for internet fraud after a return from Malaysia. At the time, he told his victims that he was a computer science student at a university in Kuala Lumpur, but he was the “arrowhead of an intricate web of internet fraud scheme that traverses two continents,” the commission said.
He was convicted and imprisoned three years later on two counts of obtaining money by false pretense, check cloning, wire transfer and forgery.
In the latest scam, he targeted victims in various countries, Uwujaren said. He declined to provide details on what countries, citing an ongoing investigation.