|Prison Date: Grace Akintaro|
A online dating scammer, who helped fleece seven lonely men out of over £100,000, has been jailed for two years and three months.
Student Grace Akintaro, 24, adopted the role of a fictitious date during phone chats with at least two of the victims and some of the money was laundered by her friend, 22 year-old Victoria Nwogu.
Judge Nicholas Heathcote Williams QC told the economics graduate it was a “particularly nasty” scam after hearing how the victims were conned into funding dates that were never going to happen.
“You knew the nature of the frauds you were participating in. To speak two two victims you had to know in good detail the story spun to each of them.”
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,” added the judge. “They were expecting to get their money back, they thought they were loaning the money.”
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.
She received a community order and must complete 60 hours community service work.
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.
|Cash: Victoria Nwogu|
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.”
|Mug Shots: Akintaro & Nwogu|
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 Judge Heathcote Williams.
“We are looking at high culpability because of the high number of victims and long period of time. These were romance frauds.”