Conman who made thousands in email to pay up
May 5th, 2006
A MEMBER of a gang which conned gullible US businessmen and women out of almost Ã‚Â£1million has been ordered to repay some of his ill-gotten gains.
Damon Knight, 28, duped dozens of rich investors across the world in a classic "advance fee" fraud.
In 2005, Knight, of Nunhead, was locked up for two-and-a-half years at Southwark Crown Court.
His associates, Kennedy Eguakhide, 34, of Clapham, and Reginald Emelonye, 37, of Abbey Wood, were jailed for three years and two years respectively.
Last Friday, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith estimated Knight had made up to Ã‚Â£374,000 from the sting but ordered him to pay back Ã‚Â£15,000.
If he fails to pay up within six months he must spend another year in prison.
At a hearing in January, Knight's co-defendants were each ordered to pay back Ã‚Â£20,000.
The trio had bombarded companies with emails offering huge sums to anyone who paid to help free 38million US dollars held in bank accounts in South Africa, China and Nigeria.
But the fraudsters then repeat-edly asked for increasing payments to cover "anti-terrorist certificates", release fees and "money laundering certificates".
One Boston businessman sold his house, cashed in his pension and his dying father's health insurance and borrowed from friends to hand over 250,000 US dollars.
Up to 30 people were trapped by the cunning scam with five customers alone handing over Ã‚Â£955,000.
The ring was smashed when a Californian sculptress rang police after paying 6,000 US dollars.
Christopher Cousins, prosecuting, said: "It was a worldwide conspiracy to defraud.
"Many, many victims lost large sums of money."
Southwark Crown Court heard the money from the scam was to be smuggled to Nigeria and Ghana.
Before sentencing the trio, the judge told the gang they had become involved in "a mangled world of false identities".
He said: "Anyone who joins the venture must know the potential profits are enormous and the risks of punishment are substantial."
Eguakhide, of Macauley Street, and Emelonye, of Panfield Road, had admitted conspiracy to defraud between October, 2002, and May 1, 2003.
Knight, of St Asaph Road, admitted five counts of money laundering and was jailed for two-and-a-half years on each, to run concurrently.