How We Gate-crash Events to Steal Laptops, Phones and Wines - Fake Journalists Reveal Shocking Secrets

Augustine & Ijie 

38-year-old Augustine Joseph, who, together with his partner in crime, 49-year-old George Ijie, have confessed how they used to gate-crash events, pretending to be journalists, while they are actually wolves in sheep clothing.

“I have several tactics for stealing phones at events. Sometimes, I’ll approach people, while they are taking pictures. I’ll offer to assist them, and before they know it, I’ll disappear with their phones,” Augustine said.

According to them, under the guise of being journalists, they would steal valuables of guests, including items belonging to genuine journalists. They target laptops, phones and wines on high tables.

Another technique deployed by the suspects in the gimmick is to exchange empty backpacks with those of journalists and guests. They’ll drop the empty backpacks and leave with those containing laptops and video cameras. They steal mobile phones from tables and also from where they are plugged.

Joseph, who confessed to have taken to stealing at events like duck to water, said he embraced the crime after he lost his job with a construction company. Before the construction company, he had worked as a waiter in a hotel. He said that he had been stealing at events since 2013.

Joseph, a father of two kids, added: “I was able to steal at events and get away with it because of the experience I had working in a hotel. I first started by attending conferences; I would pretend to be one of the waiters at the event. "I used the opportunity to steal phones from guests.

I also stole expensive wines, which are placed on the high tables. I sell the stolen items, including the wines. When I noticed that some organisers used to watch me, I switched to pretending to be a journalist. “I operate alone; there other people committing the same crime.

In most events, even before I operate, there could be an announcement that a phone had been stolen. Guests would be urged to be careful. I usually rush to leave such events so that I wouldn’t get caught.”

Joseph and Ijie, were arrested by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), after the stolen phone of a reporter was traced to Ijie. Ijie, who stole the reporter’s phone from where she was charging it at an event, was arrested after the reporter filed a complaint.

The investigation and tracking of Ijie was led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Mr Abba Kyari.

A police source said: “A Close Circuit Television (CCTV) was obtained from the hotel where the event took place. "The footage showed the suspect stealing the phone and leaving the event. The IRT operatives tracked the reporter’s stolen phone to one of Joseph’s buyers at Commuter Village, Ikeja. The buyer was used in luring Joseph out from hiding."

After his arrest, Ijie knew the game was up. He admitted to the crime and disclosed that he was not the only person involved in such a crime. He divulged information, leading to the arrest of Joseph.

Joseph narrated: “I used to approach people in conferences with my phone charger; many of them make use of Android phones. They usually want to charge their phones. I’ll ask them if they want to charger their phones. And because they believe I’m a guest or journalist, they give me their phones to charge. "I’ll disappear with their phones.

I have stolen many phones through these tactics. I can’t count the number of phones I have stolen. I get information about these events on social media. It was the phone I stole on March 31 that landed me in police net.”

Joseph said: “I attended an annual colour conference which was advertised on Facebook, Instagram, Tweeter and Bright Event. On that fateful day on Victoria Island, I was with my phone charger; the reporter approached me. She asked if I could assist in charging her phone. I collected the phone and disappeared.

The phone is a Samsung Galaxy S6. "It had a broken screen. I spent N25, 000 to repair it, before selling it for N35 000. I was hoping to get N10, 000 as profit. I was later arrested. The person, who bought the phone, was tracked and arrested. He led the police to me.”

Ijie said: “I was first arrested in April, after I stole a laptop that belonged to Mr Moruf Aregbeshola. I left the venue immediately, but the CCTV caught me leaving. I was tracked and arrested. Three laptops were eventually recovered from me.

"I was charged to court at the end. I was granted bail and when I came out, I quit the business. Two weeks ago, I received a call from Austin, who is a member of our syndicate. He told me that he had a laptop for sale. I was arrested when I came to receive the laptop from him.”

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