A self-confessed fraudster who played a role in a “wicked and despicable” scam, luring a woman into a fake virtual romance and swindling her out of some €58,000, has been ordered to fully reimburse the victim. 

Collins Eguavoen had been arraigned in February as one of a group of people who were allegedly involved in defrauding a woman by tricking her into transferring funds to a bogus US soldier she met online.

The soldier 'told' her he was stationed in Afghanistan and promised to move to Malta upon his deployment. 

The woman transferred some €58,000 to her fictitious friend in a series of small bank transactions to local banks.

However, the woman soon sensed that she had been scammed and reported the case to the police. 

Months-long investigations eventually led to the arraignment of four Nigerian men and a Maltese woman in February, all pleading not guilty to money laundering and profiting from the proceeds of crime.

Eguavoen was separately charged with breaching previous bail conditions. 

A sixth suspect was tracked down and similarly charged later that month. 

As proceedings continued, Eguavoen registered an admission to the alleged offences dating back to August 2020. 

When delivering judgment, the court, presided over by magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, described the ruse as a “wicked and despicable offence” involving the “exploitation of a person’s kindness and generosity.”

However, when meting out punishment the court took note of the accused’s early guilty plea and also lent “significant consideration” to the fact that he had already partly reimbursed the victim.

Moreover, he had acknowledged the debt by means of private writing, the court said. 

The court condemned him to a two-year jail term suspended for four years and a fine of €10,000 payable within one year.

Moreover, the court ordered the accused to reimburse his victim the outstanding debt of €11,000 within six months, warning that failure to do so within the stipulated term would bring into effect the two-year jail term. 

The court observed that it preferred to compensate the victim rather than order forfeiture of an equivalent amount in favour of the State coffers.

The court also ordered the accused to pay his one-sixth share of court expert fees amounting to €1,858 while ordering forfeiture of all his assets, movable and immovable, whether in Malta or elsewhere. 

Inspectors Sarah Zerafa and Claire Borg prosecuted, assisted by AG lawyers Karl Muscat, Sean Xerri de Caro and Abigail Caruana Vella. 

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