Four men have been found guilty of money laundering, after a dating scam which conned £220,000 from women who were looking for love online.
The scam was based around a fake profile on Match.com of a middle-aged man called James Richards. He was given a sob story, in which he was set to inherit millions of pounds from his dying father, but needed to travel to India in order to access the money.
The Daily Mirror reported that the women were asked for money for lawyers and travel, and if they paid it they were asked for more.
One victim, Suzanne Hardman (pictured above), revealed that she was tricked into paying out £174,000.
The messages tried to build a speedy and intense romance. The BBC reported that one message read: "I knew our friendship would grow from the first day we spoke but neither one of us could imagine the love exploding, no thundering into our hearts."
On the first day of the trial, Emmanuel Oko, aged 29, of Southsea, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering; and Chukwuka Ugwu, aged 28, of Southsea, pleaded guilty to money laundering. After the trial the jury found Monty Emu, aged 28, of Southsea and Adewunmi Nusi (pictured above), aged 26, of Hermitage, Berks, guilty of money laundering.
The convicted men will be sentenced in October
Detective Constable Darrin Carey, from Hampshire Police, said: "This case centres around a web of lies constructed by a devious group of people with the sole intention of exploiting emotionally vulnerable women for financial gain.... The women were duped into thinking that they were talking to a man who was genuinely looking for love on the dating website Match.com. Unfortunately for them, they were part of an elaborate scam.
"These verdicts should send out a clear message to people who think they can hide behind fake profiles and carry out these scams again and again, that they will be caught and dealt with by the courts."
Simon Edwards, Principle Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "We hope that with these convictions the victims in this case who lost a considerable amount of money and, understandably, could have lost confidence in themselves, will be able to move on with their lives now that the offenders have been brought before the court. We will now apply to the court for the ill-gotten assets to be confiscated."
Dating scams are common enough for everyone who uses these sites to need to be aware of the risks. We reported earlier this month on the man who had been scammed out of three women on online dating sites. The Australian 32-year-old had lost a total of $20,000 to the scammers.
Back in July, we reported on the romance fraudster who had pretended to be a spy in order to con women, and had convinced them to hand over £30,000. One of his victims even remortgaged her home in order to give him £18,000.
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Online daters 'conned out of £220,000'