Conmen swindled women out of £300,000 by pretending American Marine had fallen in love with them
PUBLISHED: 09:23 17 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:36 17 August 2015
Pensioner handed over her life savings
A conman who helped defraud two women of more than £300,000 by convincing them an American Marine had fallen in love with them has been jailed.
Robinson Agbonifoayetan, from Welling, helped trick a woman in her 60s into giving up her life savings, pawning jewellery, selling her car and taking out loans.
The pensioner, from Ealing, paid around £260,000 over six months after she was contacted via Skype by a man posing as a soldier called General James Krulak.
The fake marine struck up a friendship with the woman, sending her photos, speaking to her several times a day and talking about moving to the UK and marrying her. He paid her countless compliments and confided in her about the death of his parents and sister in a car crash.
He said he needed her help to pay the fees to transfer his $8.5 million retirement fund - given to him by a family whose lives he had saved in Afghanistan - from Greece to the UK. He said she would be reimbursed once the money was in the UK.
Police do not know who the man claiming to be the soldier – also known as General James Raul - was, but it was 32-year-old Agbonifoayetan and another as-yet-unidentified suspect who met the woman in London to collect the cash.
Agbonifoayetan, of Sutcliffe Road, admitted personally defrauding the woman and another victim of almost £42,000. He had used a forged UN card to pretend to be a diplomat called Christopher Williams.
The woman eventually reported what was happening to police and Agbonifoayetan, an engineer, was arrested at Heathrow airport on December 17 as he tried to leave the country on a flight to Nigeria.
It was then that police discovered there was a second victim, a woman in her 50s from Devon, who had handed over £22,000.
Agbonifoayetan was jailed for three years at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday for two counts of fraud by false representation.
Detectives are now seeking a compensation order to help the victims recoup some of their money.
They are still looking for the other scammers and believe there may be other victims. They are appealing for anyone with information to call 0300 123 2040.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Nick Curtis said: “These scammers manipulate people, playing on their emotions before extorting more and more money from them.
“They will tell you tales to pluck at your heartstrings, with a view to gaining your trust and sympathy. Sometimes they will ask for money to help them through a difficult situation. These are lies to get you to send them money.
“Scammers will quite often use the same story and send the same photo to multiple victims. You may be able to find evidence of the same scam posted on anti-fraud websites by other victims.
“They will pay you a lot of compliments and ask you a lot of questions about your life, yet tell you very little themselves beyond a few select tales.”
And he says anyone of any age or gender can become a victim.
“Sometimes scammers will ask you to keep your relationship secret but this is just a ruse to stop you talking to someone who will realise you are being scammed,” DC Curtis added.
“Victims often feel too embarrassed to tell police or a trusted person. Sometimes they want to continue believing that the suspect is who they say they are, because the reality of being scammed out of thousands of pounds is too hard to contemplate.
“But if you are concerned that you are being scammed, stop communicating with the fraudsters and report it to police immediately. You may feel that you are betraying someone you love by doing this, but if that person really is who they say they are, they would not be asking you for the money.
“Never disclose your personal details or bank details and never send money abroad to a person you have never met or do not know well, no matter how strongly you feel about them. No one who loves you will ask you to hand over your life savings and get into debt for them.”