A woman swindled out of her life-savings by an online dating agency love rat only realised her ‘boyfriend’ was a Nigerian fraudster when his alleged photograph was recognised as an American actor.
Lonely Sonia Richards, 57, fell for ‘London businessman Jack Briggs’ after he wooed her on a dating website following the break-up of her marriage.
She eventually discovered the whole thing was a scam after showing a friend a picture ‘Jack’ had sent her – which was actually the American actor Robert Frost.
But despite admitting he had scammed her out of a total of £15,000 Sonia sent Nigerian Oje Ilaboya £80 so he could get va visa to visit her.
Mother-of-two Sonia, of Liskeard, Cornwall, today issued a desperate plea for other people not to be duped by the scam.
She now directs people to a website called www.romancescam.com, which lists hundreds of hoaxes and scams – including ‘Jack’.
Sonia said: ”One evening I was feeling particularly low. He came up on instant messenger and lifted me up and made me feel happier.
”It started off with small amounts as he said he was buying a piece of land in West Africa – which only accepts cash – but he was stuck in Germany so I had to send it across.
”Then the amounts started getting bigger. I remember once he told me he needed £800 because he was in hospital with appendicitis and couldn’t afford the medical bills.
”I even sold my car, to raise the funds and send them over to him. It became all consuming.
”It cuts you off from your family. Your whole life revolves around talking to him all the time and sending money to him.”
Sonia was residing briefly in Canada when her business and marriage fell apart at the end of 2007.
She felt lonely and homesick and was recommended a dating website called Vancouver Dating by a colleague.
After a few days on the website she received an email from somebody claiming to be a 49-year-old businessman based in London called Jack Briggs.
The pair swapped phone numbers that night and began speaking every day.
‘Jack’ claimed his unusual accent was because his mother was Romanian and he had grown up there.
She initially handed over small sums of cash before she parted with thousands after ‘Jack’ claimed he wanted buy a patch of land in Africa.
Sonia then agreed to met ‘Jack’ at Heathrow airport but was instead met by a friend who told her he had been wrongly jailed and needed £7,000 bail money – which she borrowed off her mother.
Holistic therapist Sonia added: ”I got into Heathrow and waited all night but he didn’t show. I phoned him and he said to go to Manchester.
”I met this big six foot plus black guy who told me ‘Jack’ had to shoot over to Germany and had been arrested for taking too much cash and needed £7,000 bail.”
Sonia borrowed the money from her mother and went back to Manchester to hand it over believing she would be rewarded with £500,000.
She added: ”By this time I was showing my friends the photo Jack sent.
”It’s actually an American actor called Robert Frost. A friend got suspicious and found out it was a scam.
”She rang him and told him never to contact me again, but he kept ringing and admitted that he was Nigerian and hadn’t mean to hurt me.”
Despite this, Sonia still parted with a further £80 so he could buy a suit, get a visa and travel to England to be with her when she returned home in 2008.
She added: ”He sent me his flight details through email but I thought they looked a bit strange and I asked my friend who works for an airline to look at them.
”He confirmed they were faked. I didn’t confront him straight away I wanted to see how far he would go.
”Eventually he told me that dust from the Icelandic volcano had delayed his flight and that he was still in Africa.
”That’s when I ended it.”
Sonia now says she is turning her life around and is dedicated to raising awareness of this crime.
She warns: ”I was lucky as I have two daughters who have both stood by me but this can tear families apart.”