|Wanna Date?: Grace Akintaro|
Grace Akintaro, 24, adopted the role of the fictitious date during phone chats with at least two of the victims and some of the money was laundered by 22 year-old Victoria Nwogu.
The men were convinced their online romance with ‘Amanda Jenson’ was genuine and sent money for travel and expenses, but dates were cancelled with one excuse after another.
“Judging by what the victims say there were detrimental effects, both psychologically and financially,” announced Judge Nicholas Heathcote Williams QC.
“They were expecting to get their money back, they thought they were loaning the money.”
Student Akintaro, of Pettacre Close, Greenwich pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud between August 1, 2014 and December 2, 2015.
Those charges were dropped against Nwogu, of Maryon Grove, Greenwich, who pleaded guilty to one count of laundering £3,490 between April 29 and May 6, 2015.
|Cash: Victoria Nwogu|
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police’s Fraud and Linked Crime Online (FALCON) squad began investigating cons involving four of the men who had reported the scam to Action Fraud.
Further three victims were found during the investigation and all seven had been Match.com customers.
The fictitious Amanda Jenson asked for travel costs to meet up then for short term loans to cover rent and other expenses.
Forged documents were used to trick the victims into accepting ‘Amanda’ was due an inheritance and could repay the money.
One man lost £46,000 and another sent money he received from his late wife’s death in service insurance policy.
Others used up lumps of their pensions and one took out an equity release on his house to help ‘Amanda’.
The audacious fraudsters even tried to prise extra cash from one victim who agreed to meet ‘Amanda’ at an airport and was told to pay a customs charge to facilitate her release.
A photo of the fake ‘Amanda’ was found on Akintaro’s phone and most of the bank accounts were registered to her address.
Police know Akintaro visited bank branches at least sixteen times, withdrawing £23,000 of the victims’ cash.
Ironically she told the court: “I was naive and used by this person I was in love with.”
The total loss is £104,962 and prosecutor Mr. Kevin Dent said: “The amounts going through Miss Akintaro’s bank accounts add up to just over one hundred thousand pounds and directly link with the seven victims.”
Akintaro used her three bank accounts and a paypal account to transfer the money, but claims all she has to show for it is a £5,000 Renault Clio and a few hundred pounds.
“It was not a peripheral role because she was talking over the net,” said the judge. “We are looking at high culpability because of the high number of victims and long period of time.
“These were romance frauds and the fact I am ordering a pre-sentence report is no indication as to the sentence. There is a real prospect she will go to prison.”
Mr. Dent added: “There would have to be a female involved and that was Miss Akintaro. She may not have been at the top of this, but played a role over a period of time.”
They will return for sentencing on June 20.