Scammers 'conned vulnerable women out of £220,000' on dating site

Scammers 'conned vulnerable women out of £220,000' on dating site

Brooke Boston

Adewunmi Nusi

Suzanne Hardman

First published in News
Last updated
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Heartless scammers declared a 'thundering' love for lonely women looking for a partner on popular dating site Match.com to con them out of £220,000, a court heard today.

The group created false profiles to pose as middle aged men and bombard their victims with gushing messages describing them as 'my soulmate' and 'my life'.

They invented a story about needing money to 'free up' a £1.5m inheritance locked in an Indian bank account to press the 'vulnerable' singletons for cash, prosecutors say.

 Brooke Boston, 28, of Common Lane, Titchfield, and Eberechi Ekpo, 26, of Adair Road, Southsea, both deny charges of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

 Monty Emu, 28, of Adair Road, Southsea, and Adewunmi Nusi, 27, of Hermitage, Berkshire, both deny money laundering.

Together, the gang allegedly pocketed £220,000 from women they targetted online.

One romantic duped by the cruel plot paid out a staggering £170,000 in total.

Opening the trial at Winchester Crown Court, prosecutor Simon Edwards, said bogus Match.com accounts were set up to contact 'emotionally vulnerable' users.

The profile for James Richards, for example, described him as 'very attractive' and listed his height, build and hair colour.

They would exchange messages on the dating site and then move to text messages and email, where they could unleash their scheme unmonitored, jurors heard.

The 'unsuspecting victims' were fed lies about Mr Richards' father dying and leaving him £1.5m and asked for £700 to help fund a trip to India to access it.

'Mr Richards' went on the trip but hit problems and needed more money to obtain a series of certificates and an affidavit to release his inheritance, the story went.

Sums ranged from £10,000 to £100,000.

The scam ran to the invention of a fictious lawyer, Rod Thompson of 'Quality Solicitors', fake court documents and tax clearance certificates emailed to fool the women.

Mr Edwards said: "The operation of the conspiracy was fairly straightforward and its success depended on the trust and co-operation of the victims in this case.

"It is fair to say - and I hope I do not do them a dis-service in this - by and large the victims were financially vulnerable and also to an extent emotionally vulnerable.

"The conspirators exploited their emotional vulnerablity to ensure financial reward for them and those who laundered the money.

"As a result of the actions of the conspirators the complainants lost money but also suffered a significant emotional loss as well.

"Once contact was made, the relationship - as the victims thought it was - would be developed by the conspirators making protestations of love and affection in somewhat overblown language."

Unlucky in love Susan Harman handed over £174,000 in total after being contacted by 'James Richards' in March 2012, 'none of which' she saw again, Mr Edwards said.

One message sent to her said: "Seriously honey, I love you.

"I feel like a complete man. The thoughts of your hands on my body, particularly when you hold me when I am sleeping.

"When you hold me I believe nothing can harm me.

"I love your eyes, your lips, your calming nature.

"I am missing you terribly, I feel incomplete without you and I want you here now. Love always."

Mr Edwards added: "These sorts of messages were repeated time after time after time.

"Once trust was established, the contact would move from the website to personal emails and text messages.

"Some of the messages were sent in batches, if not in duplicate 'one size fits all' fashion where a single message was sent to a number of recipients.

"One we call the 'thundering' email, reads: 'My dear Susan, you make me feel important, you make me feel safe and wanted, something I have not felt for a very long time.

"I knew our friendship would grow from the first time we spoke but neither one of us could have begun to imagine the love thundering into our hearts that only we can understand.

"You are my soulmate, my best friend, my life, my inspiration - my everything'."

Jurors also heard the 'morning' email read aloud.

It said: "Dearest Julie, I miss you so much. You have been on my mind since the alarm went off this morning and I rolled over to realise you were not there."

One woman, Lorna Lacey, lost £4,700 in total.

After she borrowed money from her sister to help 'Mr Richards', he wrote: "Sweet baby. I knew I could always count on you honey, below is the account details."

Money was paid into bank accounts and transferred to others, and cash was withdrawn around Portsmouth, Mr Edwards said.

The group lived 'comfortably' on the proceeds of their alleged crime, the court heard.

But not all women contacted fell for the group's claims, and the scam eventually came unstuck.

Mr Edwards said 'elementary mistakes' were made, such as a passport supposedly belonging to James Richards sent as proof giving his name as Richard James.

And an affidavit listed 1.5million British pounds 'starling' rather than sterling.

One woman wrote: "I wonder how many other hearts you have broken... Maybe one day you will tell me. Sylvia, X"

Hampshire Police arrested and charged six suspects following a 'lengthy investigation' in February.

Boston, Emu and Ekpo, from Southsea, Hants, and Nusi, of Thatcham, Berks, deny money laundering between August 2012 and December 2013.

Boston and Ekpo deny committing fraud by false representation from 1 March, 2012, and 9 February 2014.

Boston and Nusi are on bail, the other defendants remain in custody.

All the victims of the alleged scam were from the UK.

The trial, which is set to last four weeks, continues.

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