Sask. RCMP uncover online romance scam worth up to $2 million | #philippines | #philippinesscams | #lovescams

Five Regina men are facing charges after seven Canadian women were bilked out of as much as $2 million during an online romance scam.

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They met online, strangers encountering each other, often through game apps.


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Over time, friendships grew. A number of women spread out across Canada got to know things about the men they met. The men — allegedly based out of Regina — provided their names, sent photos, talked about their children and their jobs. As weeks and months passed, the men shared more. They sent gifts, talked about visits and kept in daily contact. One woman even exchanged rings with the man she met online.

And so the women wanted to help when the men they’d come to care for fell into personal or financial crisis.

The men told of family deaths or illnesses, financial roadblocks to visiting family, difficulties paying for a child’s birthday gift, problems freeing up money in the hands of a third party or struggles accessing bank accounts at remote workplaces — such as oil-drilling platforms or foreign military complexes.

The women were intelligent and educated. After months getting to know these men, they’d gained trust and had come to rely on the stability of their relationships.

So successful were the men in convincing the women, that even as police moved in with evidence pointing to fraud, some of the victims couldn’t — and wouldn’t — believe it.

Regina RCMP, on the trail of what they call a romance scam for some 18 months, say they can legally prove combined losses to seven women of $360,000.

Estimates of total losses could go as high as $2 million or more.

Dubbed Project Farewell, the investigation led police into a complicated, cross-country case with international ties. Now a manhunt is on for all but one of the suspects, as RCMP revealed Thursday.


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Five men who lived in Regina charged with fraud: Important safety message regarding online relationships

𝗙𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗺𝗲𝗻 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝗹𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗥𝗲𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗮 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗳𝗿𝗮𝘂𝗱: 𝗜𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘀𝗮𝗳𝗲𝘁𝘆 𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽𝘀 Hey Saskatchewan, online romance scams look like real online relationships. We need your help preventing fraud like this. Here’s how you can help. 1) 𝐖𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐨. It includes four important red flags you can use to prevent fraud like this from happening to you. 2) 𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐨. Please share the video with your friends and family. The more people who know how scammers commit these frauds, the more people who are able to protect themselves. 3) 𝐃𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐨. Talk about the video with those who don’t have social media access. The more informed we all are, the better able we are at stopping fraud and scammers. If you have any information concerning the four wanted males mentioned in the video, please call 310-RCMP, your local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Posted by Saskatchewan RCMP on Thursday, April 16, 2020

The investigation

RCMP Sgt. Kim Stewart was lead investigator on the file when it came into the hands of the Federal, Serious and Organized Crime unit.

“One lady hung up on me,” Stewart says of an early call to a complainant. “So I phoned her right back and I said, ‘No, I know you’re a victim.’ Then she was able to talk to me and started crying and told me the whole story. So then that was the game changer.”

The investigation had begun in January 2018 with an unrelated complaint about a fraudulent online impersonation.

“Honestly, we thought we’d have it wrapped up in six months,” Stewart says.

But as police dug deep into banking records, they soon found themselves struggling to untangle a spider web of evidence related to an insidious and intricate romance scam.

With help from partners and using a variety of investigative tactics — including surveillance, interviews and production orders for more than 50 Canadian bank accounts — the unit uncovered information leading to a network of alleged victims. Investigators spotted large transactions made by a number of women in various Canadian provinces.

Stewart says investigators weren’t sure at first what they were looking at — were these women part of a possible crime or were they victims?

In speaking with the women, investigators began to grasp the scope of what they were looking at.

“It just completely changed the file,” Stewart says.

Police say most of the complainants were defrauded after meeting men online — sometimes through dating sites, but often through seemingly innocent game apps.


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Police found multiple people they believed to be victims of lengthy and complex scams. Not everyone was willing to help the investigation.

“We definitely struggled with the fact that some of these ladies did not believe they were victims, even though we went there, we showed them the evidence, we talked to them,” Stewart says. “They 100 per cent did not believe that they were a victim.”

The complainants

Stewart and Insp. Wayne Nichols — officer in charge of the Federal, Serious and Organized Crime unit — are very clear about one point in particular: The women drawn into this scam were not, by any means, unsophisticated or gullible.

“These scams looked very real,” Nichols said during a video statement about the file on Thursday. “The women who were victimized by these scammers could have been anyone. They were not naïve or foolish. They were preyed upon.”

Police say the suspects cultivated relationships with the women over time.

“The amount of work done by these scammers to keep up the lies and to be able to stay in constant communication to convince the women they were victimizing they were in a true, intimate relationship was significant,” Nichols said. “It made sense to believe this was a real relationship.”

Stewart says it’s important for the investigative team to be a voice for the women.

“It’s anybody’s mom, anybody’s sisters — this could happen to anybody,” she says.

Stewart notes the women she dealt with often weren’t even looking for love. They developed friendships with people online and were victimized by con artists who are pros at what they do.


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“I take great offence when people think these are just silly, dumb ladies …,” Stewart says. “It wasn’t like that. These were relationships that lasted over a year.”

Police say the scammers, over the course of two years, took their time building the relationships. By the time they began asking for money, they’d already succeeded in drawing their prey into their web.

“They waited for the women to feel and trust they were in a real relationship, sometimes up to eight months,” Nichols said.

Their pleas were urgent, claiming much-needed, immediate financial help — so urgent, the women believed they had no time to think it over. The men promised repayment as the women, sometimes more than once, provided the funds.

“I think that they were very good at what they were doing because we only got a drop in the bucket of the organization,” Stewart says. “I believe that there’s many, many more out there.”

The RCMP suspects the men involved in this scheme “have ties to what is believed to be a larger international criminal organization involved in the long-term running of online romance scams.”

Photos of four men wanted on Canada-wide warrants in connection to a large online romance scam. Clockwise from top left: Clinton Newton, Joshua Ometie, Jonah Eigbuluese, Kelvin Awani (photo submitted by RCMP)
Photos of four men wanted on Canada-wide warrants in connection to a large online romance scam. Clockwise from top left: Clinton Newton, Joshua Ometie, Jonah Eigbuluese, Kelvin Awani (photo submitted by RCMP) jpg

The accused

The RCMP say they’ve laid charges against five men, all living in Regina at the time of the alleged offences.

To date, only one suspect has been arrested — 28-year-old Austin Newton. Newton has appeared in court and was previously denied bail on charges that include personation, fraud over $5,000, fraud under $5,000 and possession of crime proceeds over $5,000. He is to return to court in Regina later this month.


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Canada-wide warrants have been issued for four other men who are facing charges that include fraud and possession of crime proceeds. The RCMP advises the men could be anywhere in Canada. They are 24-year-old Kelvin Awani, 22-year-old Jonah Eigbuluese, 25-year-old Joshua Ometie and 27-year-old Clinton Newton.

Police ask that anyone with information on these men’s whereabouts phone 306-310-RCMP (7267), your local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Anyone encountering similar scenarios online is asked to stop communicating with the person and report it to police.



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