A couple from south London who tricked victims into sending hundreds of thousands of pounds in a romance fraud have been sentenced.
Ibrahim Moro, 33, from Bromley, and Rebecca Patrick, 32, from Croydon, targeted older and vulnerable victims on online dating sites before gaining their trust and asking for thousands of pounds. Some of the scams were traced back almost a decade.
Investigators from the National Crime Agency found one victim, an elderly man from Australia, had believed he was in a relationship with Patrick.
The couple gained the trust of their victim, first asking for small amounts stating it would be used to buy Patrick warmer clothes for winter. The victim was then told Patrick was entitled to 78kg of gold in Ghana and had to pay for it to be released, but that when it was she would move to Australia and live with him.
The victim went on to transfer Aus$250,000 – close to £140,000 – to the fraudsters. He also sent Patrick a new phone and multiple other smaller amounts of money over a year-long period.
Moro and Patrick received hundreds of thousands of pounds more from other victims which they laundered through their bank accounts.
NCA investigators recovered emails from one victim who believed they were in a romantic relationship with a man they met online but who didn’t actually exist.
By July 2016, she received a request for money and was later persuaded to send £18,000 after fraudsters told her they were having problems with insurance.
Another victim was tricked into sending money to a man she thought was a German widower living in Ascot, buying gold, silver and diamonds for clients. They started a friendship and although she never met him, she regarded him as “a close friend and confidant”.
In March 2016, she was told he was overseas and had bought some precious stones, but was unable to leave the country until he had paid taxes on them. The victim was asked to pay the amount and was told “if you don’t loan me the money, that means you don’t care about me”.
The victim said she felt under pressure and paid £2,500. The transfers were made to Patrick’s account with the full amount withdrawn in cash by the defendant days later.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds taken from victims is also believed to have been sent straight to Moro’s bank accounts in Ghana.
NCA investigators were able to link Moro to the email account used to defraud the Australian victim and could also show that the addresses Moro and Patrick provided to their victims were the same addresses they gave to their banking providers.
Both defendants denied the offences, with Moro claiming the money that had gone into his account was from a clothing business he had set up in Ghana. Patrick claimed she had given Moro access to her accounts to send money to his family in Ghana.
They were convicted following a five-day trial at Croydon Crown Court in November. Both were sentenced at the same court this week. Moro was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison and Patrick received an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.
The judge also ordered all money restrained in the investigation to be returned to victims.
If you believe you have been a victim of romance fraud, you should report it to Action Fraud by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk or calling 0300 123 2040.
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As featured on Google News Showcase ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: In January 2024, Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SEVENTH successive year in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine