Man jailed for demanding R8m in online dating scam | #daitngscams | #lovescams

Chinedu Jonathan Madueke (54) has been jailed for seven years for trying to swindle $500 000 (R8 million) through an online dating scam.

Madueke was jailed by the Alexandra Region Court on Monday for fraud and extortion involving an online dating scam.

The conviction, which has been welcomed by the police, comes as cyber criminals are increasingly on the prowl, taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

During the pandemic, there has been an explosion of opportunistic online scams, ranging from spoofed e-mails to dating scams.

A recent report by the US Federal Trade Commission says romance scams hit record highs in 2021 at the peak of COVID-19-induced lockdown.

It says, in the past five years, people have reported losing a staggering $1.3 billion to romance scams, more than any other fraud category. 2021 was no exception, as reported losses hit a record $547 million for the year.

In a statement, the South African Police Service (SAPS) says Madueke was arrested on 14 May by the Hawks after he was positively identified as a wanted suspect by authorities at OR Tambo International Airport departing to Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for leisure.

It is alleged that in March 2020, Madueke created an account on an online dating site and introduced himself to the unnamed complainant as a female model from Italy, named “Ruth”.

As the online relationship grew, police say, the scam started to emerge, after the two exchanged nude videos.

A few months into the relationship, according to the SAPS, the complainant alleged Madueke demanded an “enticement of approximately $500 000 from him to avoid his nude video from being leaked on social media”.

The matter was then reported to the Serious Commercial Crime Investigation Unit in Johannesburg for investigation, which resulted in a warrant of arrest being issued for Madueke.

The authorities then circulated the arrest warrant on the local and international border movement control system, which led to his arrest earlier this month.

On Monday, the court convicted him, resulting in a sentence of seven years, with five years suspended on condition he is not convicted for a similar offence during the suspension period.

Meanwhile, the SAPS has launched a manhunt for a group of suspects using social media to lure unsuspecting job-seekers with non-existent employment opportunities in Limpopo.

According to the police, the victims end up being kidnapped and robbed, and in some instances, the relatives of the duped are extorted for more money.

The SAPS launched the manhunt after three victims were brought to the Tzaneen police station by a motorist on Sunday, 29 May, after they allegedly suffered a life-threatening and humiliating ordeal at the hands of kidnappers.

According to the police, the three victims, a male aged 27 and two women aged 21 and 33, allegedly responded to an advert on Facebook about employment in Tzaneen.

It says the unsuspecting victims boarded taxis from Jane Furse, Groblersdal and Thohoyandou, respectively, after they were individually directed by the suspects through WhatsApp to a certain spot in Tzaneen for job opportunities.

“Four suspects were waiting for the victims at a filling station in Tzaneen and thereafter boarded a taxi towards Bolobedu. They then disembarked along the way and took the victims to a secluded bushy area, where they allegedly robbed them of their cellphones, money and clothes contained in a bag,” according to an SAPS statement.

“They then ordered them to strip naked, took pictures and sent them to the family of one of the victims and demanded money for their release.”

It is alleged the culprits ordered the male victim to rape one of the women and subsequently the victims were found by a motorist along the road hitchhiking and took them to the Tzaneen police station.

Provincial commissioner of police in Limpopo lieutenant general Thembi Hadebe has warned the public, especially job-seekers, to be cautious when seeking employment and be wary of advertisements on social media platforms.

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