A group of sympathisers are appealing to a United States court to temper justice with mercy on Nigerian celebrated entrepreneur, Obinwanne Okeke fondly called Invictus Obi, over his conviction for wire fraud.
KanyiDaily had reported how Invictus Obi, who made it into Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 list in 2016 as a young African entrepreneurs, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over a fake wire transfers.
He was arrested by the FBI in August 2019 for allegedly being the ringleader of a global cybercrime syndicate who specializes in Business email compromise (BEC) attack.
According to the FBI, his organised syndicate had defrauded several American citizens to the tune of $11m through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive coordinated business email compromise scheme.
However, after months of denying his involvement in the crime before a federal judge in the US, he pleaded guilty in June 2020 to the allegation of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with American authorities.
The guilty plea helped Mr 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.
According to Premium Times, family members, an employee, a pastor, and others related to Invictus Obi, have flooded the US court with appeals for leniency ahead of his sentencing for wire fraud on Tuesday, February 16, 2021.
The sympathisers in separate letters of attestation to character sent to Rebecca Smith, the judge handling the case at a Virginia court, expressed shock about the involvement of Okeke in the unlawful activities and pleaded he be given a second chance.
Okeke’s former pastor Ikechukwuka Nwanze at Kingsway International Christian Center South Africa (KICC SA), wrote the judge on February 9, pleading for mercy.
“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 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.”
The pastor said “he was in complete shock when he found out the wrongdoings Mr Okeke committed”, insisting that “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,” he wrote.
In addition, the defendant’s brother and sister, Alexander Okeke and Florence Ozobugha respectively, in two separate letters, appealed to Ms Smith to be considerate in her sentencing.
“I sincerely apologise on his behalf to the victims and I also ask that you consider is predicaments and show mercy to him because he is a young man that have future, young daughter and an aged mother who suffers from diabetics and they will suffer emotionally and otherwise, If you sentence him to a long period of jail,” Mrs Ozobugha stated.
Mr Okeke, who is a traditional chief in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, is also a civil/highway engineer for over 30 years working for the Maryland State Highway Administration in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
“I will humbly plead that the Court tempers justice with mercy at sentencing because he (Obinwanne Okeke) has a long way to go before he can actually be tagged free.
“In sentencing, I urge that this Honorable Court consider all the mitigating factors before it with a view to striking a lenient or tempered balance in sentencing, taking into account the U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors,” Okeke wrote.
Also, Nwosu Favour Chikadibia, a pharmaceutical technology student studying at Federal Polytechnic Nekede Owerri, Imo State, who claimed the defendant is her mentor and friend, wrote to Ms Smith (judge) on February 4, 2021.
“I have known Mr. Obinwanne Okeke for more than 10 years and he is indeed a good person and a very kind man, and also very generous. He took me in and showed me the fatherly love I never experienced: even when I had lost hope of furthering my education, God Almighty through him blessed me.
“He offered me a scholarship right from my secondary school level till now that I am in a higher institution and he also really helped me and my family in so many ways. It was believed that everyone in this life has a destiny helper, truly Mr Oberwanne Okeke is my own destiny helper, that was why I was really saddened when I heard of his arrest, because this is not the great mentor, father, that I have come to respect and count on. I am really helpless right now without him.
“Please judge, with anguish and a sorrowful heart. I plead with you in the name of our lord Jesus Christ to please show mercy,” Ms Nwosu begged the judge.
Francisca Asuquo, an employee of Invictus Group, in her letter, stated that she worked with the accused for three years.
“We met at a meeting and we had an intellectual discussion about renewable energy, which got my interest and made me decide to get into the renewable energy sector which is emerging in Africa.
“As a female in this industry, it has made people and society have more respect for me seeing that I am sound in the field all thanks to Okeke for roping me in.
“I know that he has to attend the court on a theft charge. He is really upset and sorry about what he has done and wishes to spend more time with his new born child & family hoping to be a good father-figure that will excel at raising his family uprightly,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, Mr Okeke’s lawyer, John Iweanoge, begged the court to sentence him to a substantially lower jail term than required by the law.
In the court documents, Mr Iweanoge argued that the guideline range of imprisonment of 97 to 121 months or 151-188 months “will be too much for someone of his age and status”.
“A sentence within either guidelines range would be nothing short of overly punitive for a 33-year-old, non-violent, first-time offender who checks nearly all the correct boxes with regard to his low risk of recidivism.
“Moreover, a sentence within the guideline range would be disparate with many sentences imposed for individuals whose crimes had a much more severe and far-reaching victim impact.
“The court is charged with fashioning a sentence that promotes respect for the law, affords adequate deterrence, reflects the seriousness of the offense, and provides just punishment while also avoiding unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants.”
Tuesday’s conviction could see Invictus Obi spend 20 years behind bars with up to $250,000 in fines amongst other punishments, Premium Time reported.
Meanwhile, KanyiDaily had reported that a Nigerian court ordered the permanent forfeiture of N280.5 million “warehoused” in the bank accounts of Invictus Obi.