A MAN who tried to obtain over £61,000 by fraud at four local branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland has been jailed for 14 months.
Tadjudeen Abiola, described as a prisoner in Edinburgh, appeared on indictment at Jedburgh Sheriff Court last month and admitted four charges of attempting to obtain money by fraud.
On April 16, Abiola, also known as Oloyede Atunwa, pretended to a bank employee at the High Street branch that a cheque for £15,900 was authorised to be paid into another account. He instructed the bank to carry out the transfer and placed a pay-in slip and cheque into the Quick Deposit facility,knowing there were no funds in the account.
Abiola then attempted to obtain £14,800 at the High Street branch in Jedburgh in a similar way, and went through the same process to try to obtain £15,900 at an RBS branch in Galashiels and £14,800 at the St Dunstans branch in Melrose by fraud.
Abiola came to the UK from his native Nigeria in 1998 on a Visa which expired in January 1999.
“He is an overstayer,” explained Procurator fiscal Graham Fraser. “He entered into a procedure where he sought to obtain money from cheques deposited at various branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland in the Borders.”
Mr Fraser said cheques were made payable to HMRC, but it was noted the sort code and account number did not tally.
He said the accused was arrested in Duns after being spotted in the town on CCTV. During police interview, there was some question over his identity.
“He said he had travelled looking for cars for sale and befriended a Romanian female, and was asked by her to place cheques into an account,” continued Mr Fraser. “His account became more confabulated and he was kept in custody.”
Mr Fraser described Abiola as “pawn in a large picture”.
Solicitor Matt Patrick, defending, asked the sheriff to proceed on the basis his client had no previous convictions. “Under another name it appears he spent 12 months in custody in England for an analogous offence, but he says that when he was arrested by police he had a bank card in his property in the name of Atunwa.
“He hoped to use that ID to get employment, as he knew he was an overstayer,” said Mr Patrick.
“He says he has never met Mr Atunwa, who was the brother of an acquaintance he knew in London, and that he has gone back to Nigeria.”
Sheriff Anderson said he was treating Abiola as a first offender. “He became aware that he was involved in something highly suspect,” continued Mr Patrick, who told how his client had worked legitimately in London since entering the UK in 1998.
“Someone he used to work with suggested this scheme and he agreed to participate and he travelled to Scotland, with his travel paid for by this individual. His reward was the promise of work in Scotland,” he added.
“He had been here illegally, needed finances, and ended up like this because he was desperate. To a certain extent, he is a victim, as he has been taken advantage of when he was vulnerable and desperate,” said Mr Patrick.
“He is from a respectable background in Nigeria, and has no other matters outstanding. He has spent almost six months on remand.”
Mr Patrick described Abiola as “a pawn in a scheme organised higher up the chain.”
Sheriff Ian Anderson told Abiola, “I take account that you were repeatedly involved in attempting to defraud the bank and you clearly knew that involved a criminal matter. The amounts are in the region of £60,000 and a custodial sentence is inevitable,” he added.
The 14-month jail term was back-dated to April 18.