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Two Nigerian athletes face 10 years jail terms in U.S. for wire, mail fraud

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Former Nigerian jumper, hurdler and sprinter, Seigha Porbeni, is sad over the travail of African Games 100m champion, Raymond Ekevwo, and five other athletes, who have been indicted by the United States of America for wire and mail fraud.

“Remember when I said that Yahoo Yahoo was the problem of our male athletes. Now, they have been caught in fraudulent cases in America. It is sad,” Porbeni told The Guardian yesterday.

Already, two of the athletes, Emmanuel Ineh and Toluwani Adebakin, have been convicted by America of Internet fraud and will be sentenced to 10 years in jail.

According to a statement released by America’s attorney’s office of the southern district of Mississippi, the two Nigerians pleaded guilty to charges of “sending thousands of illicitly obtained proceeds to fraudsters in Nigeria as part of a larger mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.”

The statement read: “Two collegiate athletes were convicted today before America’s District Judge Kristi Johnson for transferring thousands of dollars to Nigeria as part of a complex fraud scheme, announced Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Special Agent in Charge Jermicha Fomby of Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Jackson Field Office.

“According to court documents, Emmanuel Inch, 23, and Toluwani Adebakin, 25, pleaded guilty to violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957, for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activities, collectively sending tens of thousands of illicitly obtained proceeds to fraudsters in Nigeria as part of a larger mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.

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The two Nigerians are said to be roommates at William Carey University and were arrested after they were found culpable of committing Internet crimes.

Ineh represented Nigeria at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, where he won silver, while Adebakin is a 200m and 400m runner.

Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on February 15, 2023, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Ekevwo, the reigning African Games 100m champion, and two other athletes, Anikeme Etim and Mercy Abire, as well as Zimbabwe’s Ngoni Chadyiwa, have been indicted by America’s district court for the Southern District of Mississippi’s eastern division, Forest
County, for committing mail and wire fraud.

At the 2019 edition of the African Games held in Rabat, Morocco, Ekevwo, ran 9 seconds to win the 100m gold, thereby returning Nigeria to the podium as African Games champion 12 years after Olusoji Fasuba last did it in Algiers.

Before their indictment for mail and wire fraud by America, Porbeni had warned that the Yahoo Yahoo phenomenon was the major issue affecting the performance of the nation’s male athletes at international competitions.

And at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, which ended on August 8 in England, only women athletes made the headline by winning 12 gold, nine silver and 14 bronze medals. No single Nigerian male athlete could mount the podium.

The situation became worrisome for Porbeni. In his article entitled: ‘Dwindling Performance of Nigeria’s male track and field stars,’ Porbeni stated then that the dwindling performance of the nation’s men in recent international competitions, including the World Championships at Oregon, the U.S. and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, on stakeholders’ refusal to deploy science in athletes’ identification, growth and development.

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At Oregon 2022, Team Nigeria made big headlines through the efforts of a world record-breaker, hurdler Tobi Amusan, and long jumper, Ese Brume, who won gold and silver respectively on the last day of the competition after all the male athletes had fizzled out.

“Moving along with the prevailing economic and social changes in the country today, the male child is more affected or targeted. The introduction of online trading or the Yahoo Yahoo phenomenon has provided a serious distraction to our male athletes,” Porbeni had warned.


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