Emeka Ephraim Ugwuonye, a former United States-based Nigerian lawyer, who was disbarred in New York and Maryland for professional misconduct, was yesterday also disbarred in Nigeria, to which he had relocated, for the same offense.
Nigeria's Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers, which punishes misconduct among lawyers, ordered the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to strike out Mr. Ugwuonye’s name. The order followed a case in which he was accused of having failed to disclose his personal interest in a property he was briefed to obtain letters of Administration for, which involved a widow.
Details of the Direction of LPDC will be released in due course. Mr. J.S. Okutepa (SAN) who is the Chief Prosecutor of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) at the LPDC found Ugwuonye liable for fraud.
Mr. Ugwuonye relocated to Nigeria after a story of fraud broken by SaharaReporters led to a series of court cases in the United States that nailed Ugwuonye in US courts.
In 2013, the United States District Court in Washington DC, issued a default judgment against Mr. Ugwuonye in a case extensively reported by SaharaReporters in which he diverted into his personal pockets tax refunds of $1.55 million in a real estate transaction in Washington DC he undertook for the Embassy of Nigeria.
Found liable on all the claims made by the Embassy, the court awarded monetary damages of over $2m against Mr. Ugwuonye, ordering him not only to return the money he had stolen but also to pay interest on it.
In November 2012 in Washington DC, the United States District Judge dismissed a defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit, filed in 2009 by Mr. Ugwuonye against SaharaReporters, for lack of merit. It was one of the several cases he filed, and lost, as he gambled on using the courts in the United States to thwart reporting of his illegal activities.
About seven years ago, he was disbarred by the Attorney Grievance Commission in Maryland for duping clients, and subsequently in New York and Washington DC and New York.
SaharaReporters had reported in October 2016 that Mr. Ugwuonye was facing disciplinary action before the LPDC, his name having been on a list published as an advertorial signed by LDPC Secretary H.A. Turaki, and published in The Punch.
Unable to continue his fraudulent lifestyle in the United States, Mr. Ugwuonye attempted similar schemes in Nigeria, including opening a phony Facebook page where he made members donate funds to his law firm's account.
He has 28 days to appeal the ruling of the LPDC.