A 22 year-old suspect arrested by operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Police Command has said he duped over 33 men while pretending to be a lady on Instagram.
Israel Falope, a Year One part time student of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Lagos, was arrested when officials of the RRS decoy team, who had been monitoring him for some weeks, trailed him to a popular club in Ikeja City Mall on Thursday evening before arresting him.
The officers monitored him and those that he was interacting with at the club before arresting him and a colleague late in the night, the police said in a statement on Sunday.
It was gathered that the suspect recently celebrated his birthday at Hard & Rock, Lekki, Lagos, before his arrest, where he lavished over N500,000 on foods and drinks.
The suspect, who confessed committing the crime, said he has been in the business for more than two years.
The Police revealed that Mr. Falope’s activities on Instagram were placed under investigations when it received a complaint about an Instagram handle @blackberbiedoll, used for criminal activities, which was later traced to him.
Apart from @blackberbiedoll, which he prominently used for fraudulent activities, he maintained @froshwhite007 and @froshwhite separately for same purpose.
A victim, who identified himself as Bernard, told police investigators that he got a friend request from @blackberbiedoll.
“Apparently, the picture on the account was that of a lady,” the victim said.
“The lady in question messaged me on BBM. Honestly, I thought I was chatting with a woman who claimed to be in Nigeria at the time.
“She lied to me that her father was a Nigerian and her mum, a Kenyan, and so we got talking. At a point, she lied that she was building a beauty outfit in Ikota Shopping Mall, VGC and that she was in need of some money to complete the mall.
Mr. Bernard said he only found out the account was a fake after he transferred N1 million to ‘her.’
“Weeks later, I grew suspicious of the account name Olawole Israel Oluwaseun Falope. I ran a search on Google, and then discovered it was all scam,” he said.
“Immediately, I reported the incident to Instagram and that account was blocked and later suspended to prevent others from falling victim.”
Another victim, who did not want his identity disclosed, said he paid N100,000 into her account to support her bogus fashion outfit.
Admitting the allegation, the suspect noted that since he started the act about 2 years ago, he had duped more than 33 men pretending to be a lady on Instagram and that the least amount he received from any of them was N80,000.
“When I started, much as I pretended to be a lady on phone, some men on the other side didn’t believe me,” he said.
“I then downloaded an app on Google which transformed my voice into that of a lady whenever I am having conversation.
“I got several pictures of Shayla, a pretty United States based lady, on my profile. Since then, men have been disturbing me and calling to request for a date.”
“What I do is that I assess people based on their appearance on Instagram, add them and thereafter open up conversations with them before I start bringing up all manners of stories in order to dupe them.
“At a point, I lied to most of them that I had an accident and I lost my ATM. I told them that I need some money. Some of them were generous enough to drop money into my account.”
Mr. Falope said he also told lies about putting up a boutique and saloon at Ikota, VGC and Lekki and that he needed money to finish setting them up.
“I know I made a mistake downloading Shayla’s pictures and used them for fraudulent purposes,” he said.
“I am telling you the truth, those that I have collected money from can’t be more than 33.”
Police said investigations revealed that the owner of the profile pictures the suspect used, @Shayla, had complained to Instagram that some Nigerians were using her profile pictures to scam unsuspecting members of the public.
It was also disclosed that the suspect claimed to be a friend of Toke Makinwa, Tonto Dike, Don Jazzy, Peter Okoye, Toyin Aihmaku, Tee Y Mix, Oristsefemi, Timaya, Sean Tizzle, Dami Adenuga, Femi Otedola, Mike Adenuga Jnr, Ramsey Noah, and other celebrities.
“I know all of them,” the suspect said.
“I attend a lot of shows, I meet them, take photographs with them, even exchange numbers. Like sister Toke Makinwa, Tonto Dike, Uncle Ramsey Noah, these are the kind of celebrities I look up to and I want to be like them.”
But RRS investigators confirmed that he was following a lot of Nigerian celebrities on Instagram but they could not confirm if any of them fell prey to Mr. Falope’s antics, as many of his Instagram chats with them got no response.
They added that a Ghanaian business-man who Mr. Falope claimed to have met at a popular club in Nigeria, rebuffed his request to engage him in a chat.
They also noted that Mr. Falope claims of being a half-caste, fashion designer, stylist, cosmetologist, and model were all part his fraud to make people fall for him.
He was never a trainee or a specialist in any of this, the police added.
“Our source added that he is not an half cast as he claimed to be, rather he bleached his skin,” the police said.
“He didn’t deny this claim. He admitted bleaching his skin to escape the taunting of girls that he was a very ugly guy.”
The police said items recovered from the suspect included, an iphone 6, 1 Samsung Galaxy A5, an Apple tablet, hand and neck chains, some money and a handbag.
Confirming the development, the Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmos, warned Nigerians to be careful on the internet because scammers are on the prowl worldwide.
The suspect has been transferred to State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, for further investigations.