Two Nigerian men who duped a woman out of £1.6 million in a sophisticated romance scam were today, Friday, January 8, jailed for a total of 5-and-a-half years at Basildon Crown Court.
Ife Ojo, 31, (left) of Hammonds Drive, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire was jailed for 34 months for conspiracy to defraud. His accomplice Olusegun Agbaje (right), 43, of Kershaw Close, Hornchurch in Essex was jailed for 32 months for conspiracy to defraud.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Miles, of FALCON - the Met’s specialist Cyber Crime and Fraud Unit, said:
"Today’s sentencing recognises the devastating impact this kind of fraud has on its victims. I would like to pay tribute to the victim in this case who provided evidence which was crucial in securing two guilty pleas in this case.
"The financial and emotional impact to the victim has been huge. Many victims borrow money from friends and family to pay the suspects. Victims typically feel embarrassed and ashamed when they realise they have been duped, so they often don't report what has happened to them or even confide in a friend."
In January 2015, a woman in her 40s, from Hillingdon, reported to Action Fraud that she had been a victim of fraud. The case was referred the Met's cyber crime and fraud team, FALCON.
The victim told police that in February 2014 she met a man calling himself Christian Anderson on a dating site. After a few weeks, they met in person. He told her that he was an engineer working in the oil industry, that he was divorced and had a daughter, and that his father and sister died of cancer.
After a few weeks, he told her that he loved her. He said he was having a difficult time working on a project in Benin, Africa. He said that he wanted to come home to be with her but first he needed some specialist machinery so he could finish the project. He asked her for a loan to pay import duty for the machinery.
She paid over £30,000 into the business account of his supposed personal assistant, a man allegedly called Brandon Platt, but Anderson then requested more cash, ranging from £25,000 for a police fine, to thousands of pounds to free up inheritance money left by his mother, who lived in Cape Town.
He told her that he wanted to use the inheritance money to set up a life with the victim. Fees for freeing up the inheritance money included costs for holding it in a vault in Amsterdam and $170,000 to pay for a non-existent "anti-terrorist certificate" so that the money could be deposited at a bank.
The victim had been convinced that they would live together, and had been looking for a home for them to buy. She met with someone claiming to be Anderson's lawyer, and even travelled to an office in Amsterdam to meet a man calling himself Dr Spencer, who was supposedly responsible for holding the money in a vault.
Between March and December 2014, the victim paid £1.6million into numerous bank accounts.
The money was subsequently transferred into various personal accounts, including £35,000 to the bank accounts of Ife Ojo and Olusegun Agbaje. The victim doubted the authenticity of Anderson's stories on numerous occasions but every time she asked for proof he sent false documentation or made up excuses for why he could not send her evidence.
FALCON carried out a financial investigation. They identified Agbaje as one of the recipients of the victim's money and went to his home address where they found him with Ojo. Both were arrested and their homes searched. At Ojo's home, they found a laptop containing records of the victim's conversation with Anderson, a memento book seemingly sent to Anderson by another victim and a copy of the book 'The Game'.
FALCON established that they had received £35,000 of the victim's cash and charged them. In September 2015, Ojo, a student from Peterborough and Agbaje, an administrative assistant of Hornchurch both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud at Basildon Crown Court.
Detectives are continuing their enquiries as they seek other members of the gang and try to identify any other victims.