Ikechukwuka Nwanze, former pastor of suspected internet fraudster, Obinwanne Okeke, popularly known as Invictus Obi, has asked a U.S. court for leniency ahead of his sentencing for wire fraud.
According to PREMIUM TIMES, Nwanze, who is the pastor at Kingsway International Christian Center (KICC), South Africa, wrote the judge handling the case at a Virginia court, Justice Rebecca Smith, on February 9, pleading for mercy on Okeke’s behalf.
He wrote: “I know Mr Okeke, as he was a member of my congregation at KICC SA for a period of 5 years and at the time he was a student at Monash University in South Africa.
“Mr Okeke is a quiet young man with a keen interest in business, especially Real Estate opportunities.
“I was quite intrigued at the time that a young man his age wanted to make something of his life. He was involved in youth activities in the church and I had asked him at a time to be a keynote speaker at one of the business seminars for young people.
“I was in complete shock when he found out the wrongdoings Mr Okeke committed.
“It was not consistent with the character he witnessed during his tertiary education and the period he was in the church.
“I want to use this opportunity, your honor, to plead for leniency on your judgement and also on behalf of Mr Okeke, deeply apologise to victims of these nefarious activities and to the government of the United States.”
Naija News reports that Okeke, Chairman of Abuja-based Invictus Group, will be sentenced on Tuesday for offences bordering on wire fraud.
The 33-year-old before his arrest in 2019 was listed as one of the influential young entrepreneurs recognised by Forbes.
Okeke was nabbed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) which alleged he connived with certain individuals, some of whom remain at large, to defraud American companies and individuals over a period of at least four years.
One of his victims, Unatrac, a subsidiary of American heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, lost $11 million in spurious wire transfers, court documents showed.
Agents of the international security agency obtained an arrest warrant and intercepted the fraudster in the airport while returning to Nigeria after a brief visit to the U.S. in 2019.
However, after months of denying his involvement in the crime before a federal judge in the U.S. and argument over jurisdiction, he pleaded guilty to the allegation of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with American authorities last year June.
The guilty plea helped Okeke, who was initially indicted on two counts of computer and wire fraud, to secure the withdrawal of the second charge that carries lesser sentence and fines.
As part of his deal with the U.S. government, he would now enjoy immunity from prosecution on the same matter in the U.S. Eastern District of Virginia.
The district would also confirm the validity of the plea agreement in case Okeke is charged over the same offence in another jurisdiction. Although his sentencing was initially scheduled for October 22, 2020, it was postponed to Tuesday for reasons unknown.
It was gathered that the conviction could see him spend 20 years behind bars with up to $250,000 in fines amongst other punishments.