Detectives have discovered that three criminals involved in a love scam that saw a 66-year-old woman lose her life savings were stalking her online after she became entangled and fell in love with a fake person they set up.
A source revealed last night that after the victim met a man named Neil Turner on dating site Plenty of Fish in November 2019, the gang involved in stealing €282,000 from her made sure that she was a wealthy person.
“Evidence collected from confiscated electronic devices showed these individuals Googled her and checked her social media profiles to determine she had money,” the source said.
“This is a working woman who had access to a lot of funds and there is no doubt that they would not have been interested in her if their research had revealed that she was a woman living in poverty.
“They knew she had a good job, and all of that shows the danger of having your life story posted online.”
That Irish Independent can also show that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) investigation that led to the three criminals being sentenced to prison yesterday also uncovered other victims.
The three convictions are the first for love fraud in Ireland, and sources said an important aspect of the investigation was that fraud police officers learned that criminals who communicate with the victim in this type of crime are based in Ireland.
It had previously been assumed that they were based abroad.
Many of these crimes occurred during the early stages of the Covid pandemic, a time that has been described as a “perfect storm” for love scams, as singles and offenders who had no valid excuses made frequent use of dating sites to travel to meet their victims hold true.
After a forensic analysis of electronic equipment, Gardaí discovered the three men had another victim, a woman in the UK who had lost a significant sum of money to them.
This woman did not want to testify to the Gardaí and there were no charges in this case.
Seven other Irish-based potential victims aged between 40 and 60 were also identified by Gardaí but luckily they had not yet handed any money over to the scammers.
“When identified, these love scammers were still in the fostering phase and these women had not handed over any money,” a source said.
“They were very surprised and shocked when contacted by Gardaí and they later received detailed advice on crime prevention.”
When investigators conducted raids in the summer of 2020, one of the suspects was registered as Neil Turner on the dating site and a number
of saved conversations were discovered.
“They had to save the conversation thread so they could know what different story they were telling each of their victims,” the source said.
The three convicted yesterday are suspected of having worked for the global crime syndicate Black Axe.
Investigations have revealed that the men stole very little of the €282,000 stolen from the woman, with these funds mostly being transferred to bank accounts controlled by senior gang members in Turkey
Omowale Owolabi, 31, of Kentswood Court, Navan, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to theft; Raak Sami Sadu, 32, of Lohunda Downs, Clonsilla, Dublin 15, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud; and Samson Ajayi, 33, of Park Wood, Grangerath, Co. Meath, pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering.
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Owolabi to three years and three months in prison. He sentenced Ajayi to two and a half years in prison and Sadu to three years.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/romance-fraud-trio-stalked-victim-online-to-ensure-she-was-wealthy-41875510.html A romantic scam trio followed the victim online to make sure she was wealthy