A Nigerian fraudster masqueraded as a US Army captain serving in Afghanistan on an online dating profile to scam lonely women out of more than £400,000.
Tosin Femi Olasemo, 37, was allowed into Britain on a student visa, where he set up a Match.com profile from his Cardiff home, pretending to be an American serviceman.
The women believed heroic Captain Morgan Travis was on the lonely hearts website looking for love.
But a court heard it was Nigerian-born Olasemo, 37, who used a picture of a soldier wearing full military uniform as his profile picture.
He began ‘intense online relationships’ with the women before beginning to ask for small amounts of money to help pay for leave to visit them over two years.
Prosecutor Ruth Smith said money soon started spiralling into a fortune after he had ‘brainwashed’ women into believing they were in a real relationship.
Olasemo claimed he was stationed at Camp Joyce, a remote base in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, where about 700 U.S. soldiers, lived.
Police contacted the United States military to try and work out who the soldier was – but they were unable to identify him.
Ms Smith said: ‘He conducted an online dating fraud exploiting lonely and vulnerable women by pretending he was an American soldier in Afghanistan to get money.’
Cardiff Crown Court heard Olasemo’s main victim was Tine Jorgensen, 47, from Denmark, who had two children and was recently widowed.
In May 2011 her husband died and by December 2012 she had signed up to Match.com to see if she could find love again.
The court heard within seven days Olasemo had contacted her as US Army captain Morgan Travis.
He told her he was serving in Camp Joyce and sent her a picture of a soldier with the name ‘Travis’ embroidered on his military jacket.
Ms Smith said: ‘She began talking to him over the video service Yahoo Messenger but he informed her he couldn’t send live video of himself due to security risks in Afghanistan – something she accepted.
‘Olasemo said he could get some leave but would have to pay administration fees and she said she would help him on the understanding she would get her money back.’
Mrs Jorgensen was emailed by a man claiming to be a Colonel Bill Watson of the US Army requesting money for the fees.
She made multiple payments through Western Union totalling £39,957.90p to assist who she thought was now her boyfriend Capt Morgan Travis.
But the sums of money she would send soon spiralled out of control after receiving a message that Travis had been arrested.
Ms Smith said: ‘Despite having obtained substantial sums of money he then decided to say Morgan Travis had been arrested for money laundering and requested money in the guise of Sergeant James Wayne who said he was a friend of Travis.’
She then sent him a further £211,980 in order to secure the release of Travis.
Ms Smith added: ‘The content of the messages were clearly designed to play on the emotional feelings she had for Morgan Travis.’
The fraud was ended when the bank of Mrs Jorgensen stopped two further money transfers of £40,000 and £150,000 getting through to Olasemo and contacted police.
Despite discovering Morgan Travis was a lie dreamt up by a Nigerian man called Tosin Olasemo she continued an online relationship with him after telling her he had committed the fraud because he had borrowed money from Nigerian militants and now owed them money under pain of death.
Ms Smith said: ‘Unfortunately she still felt an attachment to the defendant and stayed in contact for some time and sent him more money until a lady claiming to be the Danish wife of Olasemo contacted her.
‘As a result of that she contacted police and he was arrested at his home in Cardiff.’
Olasemo, living in Cardiff on a student visa at the time of the frauds, was arrested January 2015 at his home and when police searched his computer found ‘conversations with numerous other women as Travis’.
They also found several false Nigerian passports and driving licenses.
One of the other victims was Danish woman Joanna Kosz-Strusiewiczqho, who had been divorced for 10 years.
She was fed the same lies on Match.com about a soldier this time called Michael Travis and they became ‘engaged’ online before she sent him £1,100.
When police contacted her about the fraud she said she felt ‘upset and angry at herself that someone had managed to play on her emotions.’
Mrs Jorgensen said she had been ‘brainwashed’.
In a victim impact statement read to the court she said: ‘I really liked the contact with Travis. He was extremely interested in getting to know me.
‘When I found out I was terribly ashamed of being so naive and having believed his lies.’
The court heard how police searched Olasemo’s computer and on his laptop they found documents about how to speak to women to gain their confidence.
Olasemo pleaded guilty to 12 counts of fraud between December 2012 and October 2014.
He admitted four counts of fraud, four counts of possession of false identity documents, three counts of possession for use in fraud and one count of acquiring criminal property.
Judge Eleri Rees jailed him for four and a half years.
She told him he had created a ’tissue of lies’ to convince the women to pay him substantial sums of money.
She said: ‘This was a sophisticated, sustained and planned conduct against ladies who became vulnerable in their dealings with you.
‘I am told it is probable you will be deported at the end of your sentence.’
Detective Sergeant Jamie Holcombe, from the South Wales Police Economic Crime Unit, said: ‘This case is an example of how an individual can sit in front of a computer and destroy another person’s life.
‘Olasemo took advantage of his victims’ vulnerabilities and showed no compassion for their significant losses.’
The money he gained will now be pursued under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
DS Holcombe added: ‘As always, we would encourage those using dating sites or other internet forums to be vigilant. Please do not send money or provide personal details to strangers.’