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Vincentian helps in catching Nigerian lawyer

by Nelson A. King in New York 16.MAR.07

Often times, in life, one needs a guardian angel, or a Godfather or mother, in overcoming ostensibly insurmountable obstacles, or have dreams realized, or simply to watch one’s back.

Gailene Windsor, renowned in the Vincentian community here for her role as a netball administrator and community organizer, recently became what can be described as an “insurance angel” in helping to nab a Nigerian lawyer, who allegedly defrauded a Trinidadian man out of his share of a US$34,000 legal settlement.{{more}}

Windsor, a senior claims adjuster, last spring was reviewing returned settlement cheques when she noticed something amiss: the signature at the back of one cheque did not match Eric O’Brien’s. She had previously requested O’Brien’s signature on an affidavit.

So, she instantly called O’Brien, 48, a chief petty officer in Trinidad and Tobago’s Defense Force, who was injured by a runaway van in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 2000.

O’Brien had sued the driver’s insurance company, Nationstate, and hired Moses Osayamwen, 49, to represent him.

O’Brien – who suffered severe back, shoulder and knee injuries and underwent eight months of physical therapy, before returning to his native land – did not even have money to return to the Big Apple. He had to borrow from relatives and friends in purchasing a plane ticket.

On arrival in New York, he went into action with Windsor in seeking out Osayamwen at his downtown Brooklyn office.

“I had the claimant call him several times, and he kept saying, ‘the case is closed, nobody is going to pay anything,'” said Windsor of Osayamwen, who had cashed the cheque after reaching a settlement with Nationstate, in a Searchlight interview. The cheque was payable to both Osayamwen and O’Brien.

Windsor and O’Brien then called a mainstream media house, which sent a reporter to accompany them to the lawyer’s office.

“When we got to his office, another attorney was giving him highlights about who was outside,” Windsor said. “We then pushed the door and went inside, so he could not escape.”

On seeing O’Brien, Osayamwen called him by his first name, Windsor said. But, in an instant, he pleaded amnesia when confronted about O’Brien’s share of the settlement, trying, at the same time, to flee the office.

“I have no recollection,” Windsor quoted Osayamwen as stammering.

“I need my money,” she said O’Brien demanded.

Windsor said Osayamwen then wrote O’Brien a cheque for $15,678, deducting his fees and a $7,000 advance.

But that’s not the end of the story. The media house then alerted Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ office, whose rackets bureau launched an investigation into the matter.

Last week, the District Attorney indicted Osayamwen, charging him with “forging the victim’s signature in order to cash the cheque.”

“Osayamwen is charged with grand larceny in the third degree and two criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree,” the indictment read.

If convicted, he faces seven years in prison. He also has been ordered to surrender his passport since he is viewed as a flight risk.

Windsor said her efforts, in helping O’Brien retrieve his share of the insurance settlement, are “no big deal.”

“It’s all in a day’s work,” she said, adding that she has helped several of her compatriots in different ways.

“I’ve helped quite a few Vincentians with worker’s compensation, because they don’t know their rights,” she said.

“They figure because they’re illegal (in the country), they can’t get this, they can’t get that,” she added. “That’s not true.

“I hate it when people try to get over the system,” she continued, alluding to Osayamwen. “I can’t accept fraud.”

Windsor said she is willing to testify, as the prosecution’s key witness, against Osayamwen in the forthcoming trial.