A Nigerian man, swindled by an American with a history of EB-5 fraud, took the witness stand in Lagos to detail how he was conned: from seeing the newspaper ad, to the hotel seminar, to chasing the fraudster down in the U.S. — and realizing his money and EB5 Green Card hopes were gone.
American Marco Ramirez is charged with defrauding five Nigerians of nearly $1.6 million in an EB-5 scam. One of those would-be investors, Olukayode Sodimu, testified in a Lagos court just how the con happened.
Handshakes & brochures aren’t enough
Sodimu, a Nigerian businessman, first saw a local newspaper ad that promoted USA Now as a regional center for EB-5 investment. After confirming the legitimacy of EB-5 as a program, Sodimu then attended a hotel seminar Ramirez was hosting. The two spoke together and Ramirez assured Sodimu that he had helped other Nigerians in their quest for an EB5 Green Card. Ramirez went as far to introduce Sodimu to another man who claimed to be in the final stage of the EB-5 process and needing his biometrics to be done.
Afterwards, Ramirez and Sodimu met several times satisfy the Nigerian’s queries and give him a sense of confidence in USA Now. Sodimu received an email from someone claiming to be Ramirez’s personal assistant and he was instructed to fill out some forms. Next, Sodimu was told to pay $500,000 in an “investment” account and a $45,000 administrative fee into Ramirez’s personal account. In June 2013, Sodimu paid the admin fee in five instalments within one week. Two months later, he paid $100,000 of the so-called investment fee. Ramirez was pressuring him to pay the remainder of the $500,000, according to Sodimu’s testimony.
Chasing down the truth in another continent
Then the first sign that all was not right happened: Sodimu discovered online that Ramirez and his wife were being investigated by the FBI in the U.S. for fraud. An anxious Sodimu phoned Ramirez to discuss what he had read. Ramirez passed it off as a minor issue that would soon be taken care of.
Unsatisfied, Sodimu flew to the U.S. just a few days later to meet with Ramirez in person. After their talk, the Nigerian was even more worried. He contacted Ramirez’s lawyer and the Securities and Exchange — and discovered that there was a line of people claiming they were defrauded by Ramirez.
Sodimu found other Nigerians who appeared to be scammed by Ramirez. They tried to get their money back but their efforts were in vain. That’s when Sodimu contacted the Nigerian fraud agency. The group of Nigerian investors Sodimu met sought collective legal counsel.
The American Ramirez was still coming to Nigeria to conduct “business” and was eventually apprehended by local authorities.
“Till now, he has not paid me back the $145,00 neither has he issued me a Green Card,” laments the swindled Nigerian businessman.
Sadly, this is another example of how a well-intentioned would-be EB-5 investor gets hoodwinked by fraudsters. And how EB5 due diligence must go beyond conversations and handshakes to actually investigate the offering at hand.
Read our previous story on this Nigerian EB5 fraud case mentioned on American arraigned in Nigeria on more EB-5 fraud charges
Read the Channels TV story
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