A Peterborough man who conned a woman out of £1.6 million by using a fictional ideal man to seduce her on a dating website has been jailed.
The divorced mother-of-two, who cannot be named for legal reasons, thought she had met and fallen in love with a man called Christian Anderson on Match.com.
She was persuaded by Mr Anderson, supposedly a well-to-do divorced oil industry engineer with two children, to transfer huge sums of cash between March and December 2014 only to discover he did not exist, Basildon Crown Court heard.
Accountancy student Ife Ojo, 31, from Peterborough, and administrative assistant Olusegun Agbaje, 43, from Hornchurch, Essex, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud.
The Metropolitan Police are still working to identify others involved, including the person who posed as Mr Anderson.
The Met Police said in the last year they have investigated the loss of £4 million to 100 victims who have been “ruthlessly manipulated by men and women pretending they love them”.
Judge Jonathan Black sentenced Ojo to 34 months in prison and Agbaje to 32 months on Friday.
He said: “The victim was an intelligent businesswoman but she was also vulnerable because she was recently divorced.”
Prosecutor Lesley Bates said the victim had borrowed money from friends and family, believing it would be paid back when Mr Anderson came to live with her.
She added: “She has since experienced stress, cries, is depressed and unable to trust people or tell them what has happened through her embarrassment. She has been unable to tell her friends and family and finds herself isolated by the fact she was taken advantage of by the way that she was.”
The court heard she met the man pretending to be Mr Anderson in person once. She described him to police as a “handsome white man”.
Their relationship blossomed through conversations almost every day on Skype and Yahoo messenger services. These were usually text conversations or over a poor connection meaning she could not see Mr Anderson.
The victim also received flowers and chocolates purporting to be from him.
She was persuaded to pay money to his personal assistant Brandon Platt, saying it would help him complete a project in Benin and allow him to come to live with her in the UK.
Police identified Agbaje and, when they raided his home, found him with Ojo.
At Ojo’s home they found a laptop containing records of the victim’s conversation and a “seduction kit” including poetry book For My Soulmate and dating manual The Game.
Bank records showed Ojo received £10,000, most of which was used to make payments to luxury watch maker Rolex and car manufacturer Lexus.
A total of £35,000 was paid into a bank account controlled by Agbaje.
John Femi-Ola, mitigating for Ojo, said his client was originally from Nigeria and had been introduced to the scam by Agbaje.
Simon Smith, mitigating for Agbaje, said his role was to provide a bank account. “The planning and sophistication of this crime was not his responsibility,” he said.