Even though Maria Grette was scammed out of thousands of dollars due to a man’s conniving internet plot, she still became his friend – and his college benefactor.
The Swedish woman began corresponding with a man named Johnny after she created an online dating profile following her divorce a few years previously. A romance blossomed with someone she thought was a 58-year-old Danish man.
After three months of flirting and conversation, Johnny said he planned on meeting her in Sweden – but first, he told her, he had to fly to Nigeria for a job interview with his son Nick.
The next phone call Maria received was from Johnny claiming that they had been mugged and his son was shot in the head. The man’s bank didn’t have any branches in Africa, wire transfers took a few days to process, and surgeons apparently required a one thousand euro payment in order to proceed with Nick’s life-saving operation.
Maria didn’t think twice about shelling out the necessary cash to save her beloved and his family.
When he continued asking for more money to cover treatment, however, she came to her senses and stopped answering his messages.
Three weeks later, Johnny emailed her apologizing for his deceit, and explained that he was a 24-year-old Nigerian “419” scammer who committed fraud because, even though he had finished university two years earlier, he had no job.
The Swedish woman and the scammer continued communicating until they developed a friendship – one that was actually based on honesty.
Then Maria started to feel that the internet wasn’t good enough and she wanted to meet ‘Johnny’ in real life – so in October 2009, she took a two week vacation to Abuja, Nigeria. Johnny’s friends, who also paid their bills through internet fraud, turned out to be amiable young men, enjoyable to be around.
In an effort to make a difference in the lives of her new companions, Maria has spent the last five years assisting African artists to attend European art exhibitions and competitions. She has helped source international grants and other funding to bring more opportunities to her new friends.
The 69-year-old teacher has not only enjoyed giving a leg-up to Nigerian artists, she’s also paid for Johnny to study in America. The two send each other regular updates on their lives.
“He is very dear to me,” Maria told the BBC. “He has asked me so many times to forgive him and I told him that the most important thing is to forgive himself.”
Johnny now has a job in the oil sector and he’s used his new income to buy one of Maria’s paintings, which she shipped to him in America.