Two men have been found guilty over a Match.com dating scam which duped vulnerable women looking for love out of £220,000.
Monty Emu, 28, and Adewunmi Nusi, 37, were convicted of money laundering following a three-week trial.
Victims thought they were contacting a middle-aged man called James Richards, but in fact it was a fake profile set up to snare them and net cash.
Jurors at Winchester Crown Court heard devastated victim Suzanne Hardman relive how she was tricked into paying out £174k.
Newly single after splitting up with her husband, she sobbed giving evidence about falling for the scheme.
The court heard ‘unsuspecting victims’ were fed lies about Mr Richards’ father dying and leaving him £1.5m and were asked for £700 to help fund a trip to India to access it.
‘Mr Richards’ went on the trip but hit problems and needed more money to obtain a series of certificates and an affidavit to release his inheritance, the story went.
One message sent to the women read: “You make me feel important, you make me feel safe and wanted, something I have not felt for a very long time.
“I knew our friendship would grow from the first time we spoke but neither one of us could have begun to imagine the love thundering into our hearts that only we can understand.
“You are my soulmate, my best friend, my life, my inspiration – my everything’.”
Total sum swindled
Sum swindled from Suzanne Hardman
Fake inheritance used to convince women
Neither Emu, from Southsea, Hants, or Nusi, from Hermitage, Berks, were accused of setting up the fake profile on Match.com.
They had both denied money laundering between August 2012 and December 2013 but were convicted by a majority verdict.
Third defendant Brooke Boston, 28, sobbed in the dock as she was cleared of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.
Boston, from Titchfield, Hants, had been accused of creating a fictitious profile on Match.com between March 2012 and February 2014.
She was also cleared of money laundering between August 2012 and December 2013.
Her estranged husband Emmanuel Oko, 29, from Southsea, Hants, and Chukwuka Ugwu, 28, of Portsmouth, Hants, both admitted money laundering.
Oko has also pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.
Last week, the trial judge ordered Eberechi Ekpo, 26, from Southsea, Hants, be found not guilty of money laundering and fraud by false representation.
The men have been remanded in custody until they are sentenced at Winchester Crown Court next month.
Detective Constable Darrin Carey, from Hampshire Police, said a ‘devious’ group had made up a ‘web of lies’ to exploit the emotionally vulnerable.
DC Carey said: “This case centres around a web of lies constructed by a devious group of people with the sole intention of exploiting emotionally vulnerable women for financial gain.
“All members of this group played their part in these offences, which left nine women feeling used and embarrassed and has seen them lose significant amounts of money.
“The women were duped into thinking that they were talking to a man who was genuinely looking for love on the dating website Match.com.
“Unfortunately for them, they were part of an elaborate scam.
“These verdicts should send out a clear message to people who think they can hide behind fake profiles and carry out these scams again and again, that they will be caught and dealt with by the courts.
“I would like to thank the women involved in this case for their courage in coming forward to report this and also for going through the distressing experience of giving evidence about a very personal subject.”
Prosecutor Simon Edwards, Principle Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service, welcomed the verdict.
Mr Edwards said: “The victims in this case lost a considerable amount of money and, understandably, could have lost confidence in themselves as a result.
“We hope that with these convictions will be able to move on with their lives now that the offenders have been brought before the court.
“We will now apply to the court for the ill-gotten assets to be confiscated.”