By Sam Pazzano, Toronto Sun
February 02, 2017
In the end, Lt. Gen. “William R. Douglas” was no officer.
And he was no gentleman.
A devastated Toronto widow discovered her online sweetheart — Lt. Gen. Douglas — was actually a fictitious character, but her financial losses were painfully real.
Romance scam artist Akohomen Ighedoise broke her heart and plundered her bank account for $609,000.
Police said she was so broke she scrambled to pay her heating bills in the winter of 2014. She never met him.
Ighedoise admitted Tuesday that he defrauded the Toronto widow by posing as Gen. Douglas, the American soldier stranded in the Middle East.
Ighedoise pretended to be Douglas’ pal, a UN delegate named Martin Acker Jr. Posing as Acker, Ighedoise paid his victim three visits in Toronto and another visit in Dublin, Ireland to pick up huge sums of cash.
The victim, now 65, who has a PhD, has done some work with the UN, said Crown attorney Renna Weinberg in reading an agreed statement of facts.
The money was meant to pay for certificates and fees so that officer Douglas could join his new love in Toronto, said Weinberg.
After the first visit on March 26, 2014, the victim complained to her purported boyfriend that “Acker” never showed any ID or a receipt for the $11,000 she gave him, said Weinberg.
“Acker” showed the victim a UN Identification Card on the next visit in April 2014 and signed a receipt for the $68,000 US she gave him, court heard.
A few days later, the victim met Acker again in Dublin and gave him 8,500 Euros ($12,938 Cdn).
She returned home, took out a mortgage on her home and cashed in her investments so she could wire transfer him almost $500,000.
In total, she handed him $109,415 in cash and wired $499,957 to other unknown associates in Asia linked to this fraud within three months, court heard.
Douglas promised to show up at the end of June 2014 but never did. No money has been recovered, court heard.
Ighedoise was sentenced by Justice Timothy Lipson to the equivalent of two years imprisonment and the fraudster was ordered to repay $609,000.
Instead of walking free out of the courthouse afterwards, the Markham man was re-arrested on an extradition warrant to the U.S.
Police alleged Ighedoise and five others are indicted on a $5-billion fraud ring run by the infamous Black Axe Nigerian crime gang.
Ighedoise, a member of Black Axe, and “Ike” Derek Amadi, 35, who’s not a Black Axe member, are facing extradition.
Ighedoise will be back at Superior Court on Feb. 16 to set a date for his extradition hearing while Amadi will return on March 9. Court documents allege Amadi is facing a prison sentence of between 15 and 20 years for his American crimes.
BLACK AXE 101
Akohomen Ighedoise is a high-ranking member of the “Black Axe,” which is often called the “Nigerian Mafia.”
Black Axe or Neo Black Movement members are involved in drug trafficking, human smuggling, prostitution, fraud, money-laundering and murder in countries around the world.
The criminal organization is widely feared in Nigeria, where Black Axe members are suspected of murdering scores of people every year, court documents alleged.
“It has tentacles in Canada and offices in every major city around the world,” said Det. Const. Michael Kelly of the Toronto Police Service’s Financial Crimes Unit.
Ighedoise is listed as a director and is the Black Axe Canada zone treasurer, responsible for keeping financial records and collecting members’ dues.
Officers busted Ighedoise in August 2014 at Pearson airport for having counterfeit credit cards.
Further investigations by various forces helped the FBI pinpoint who was orchestrating a $5-billion fraud in the U.S. through various schemes, including wire transfer frauds and romance scams, said Kelly.
These search warrants on Ighedoise’s electronic devices also led investigators to a Toronto widow, who had reported being fleeced out of $609,000 in a romance scam by Ighedoise, who posed as a retired American soldier.
Ighedoise became a Black Axe member in 1996, a permanent resident of Canada in 2003 and a Canadian citizen in 2007.
The victim remains terrified and wishes to remain anonymous. The groups is also known for extorting cash by intimidating wealthy Nigerian immigrants in the GTA, the documents stated.
A Black Axe member named Norense Irabor, 28, was deported to Nigeria from Toronto after he admitted to beating, kidnapping and threatening to kill a hostage in Toronto.