A gang of “cruel” men who preyed on women for cash through a dating scam have been jailed.
The fraudsters extracted more than £240,000 from two victims between 2016 and 2017.
Using internet dating sites, the group hid behind the false personas of ‘Kevin Churchill’ and ‘Kevin Thompson’, posing as wealthy businessmen with international lifestyles to target women in a bid to persuade them of their genuine romantic interest.
They used the aliases to convince the women they were in loving relationships, inciting them hand over money to help pay for veterinary bills, legal fees and travel costs.
Despite the fraudsters taking action to evade authorities, they were tracked down by specialist officers who followed digital trails through several bank accounts.
Three of the men, earmarked as ringleaders, were handed sentences of totaling more than nine years behind bars for their part in the fraud.
Yaw Sarpong, 22, from Hampshire, was sentenced 15 months’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Nicholas Adade, 23, from Stoke on Trent, was told he must spend three years and seven months for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and money laundering. He was also sentenced to14 months for money laundering, which will run concurrently.
The third ringleader, Eric Ocansey, 35, from Birmingham was sentenced to two years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, plus 14 months for money laundering, which will run concurrently.
Two other members of the gang were also sentenced for their roles, with a third judgement to be passed next week.
Obed Addo, 37, from Roehampton was handed 21 months imprisonment for money laundering.
Daniel Keh, 25, from Enfield received 18 months imprisonment for converting criminal property and supplying articles to be used in fraud, plus six months for money laundering to run concurrently.
A third man, Makeda Stair, 23, from Enfield, will be sentenced for his role next week.
When Di met Kevin online, she thought he could trust her.
The man she was chatting to would say things like “can’t wait to meet you” and told her they were going to have “a wonderful life together.”
But Kevin wasn’t real. He turned out to be a lie made up to con her out of more than £40,000.
She told ITV News: “I wasn’t an easy target by any means.
“But he just knew the right words and I got hooked.”
“It started by his dog being ill and he was desperate and he was out of the country. He just couldn’t get any funds to a vet.
“Then it went on to his business side, by that time they have got you and they make you feel guilty.”
She eventually went to the police, saying she didn’t want to be here anymore because of what had happened to her.
Detective Constable Rebecca Mason of Surrey Police’s Economic Crime Unit said: “I want to pay tribute to the bravery of the two victims in coming forward and working with us to bring this case to court. They have been completely determined to get closure for themselves, but also to ensure that no one else suffers as much as they have at the hands of these heartless people.
“This type of crime plays mercilessly on personal emotions. These women have gone from the high excitement of being in love to the extreme low of realising they have been victims of crime and their trust and generosity has been completely abused.
“I can’t emphasise enough, having got to know them throughout this case, that these are both intelligent, sensible women who were taken advantage of by a cunning, cruel, and highly manipulative gang of fraudsters.”