Pretoria – An online love scam is said to have generated hundreds of thousands of rand from lonely, unsuspecting women, money which may now find itself in the public purse.
Many women paid all the money they had to men they had never met, for love – one even couriered a precious ring to her online “lover” after her bank account was depleted.
But it was all a scam, and now the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) has turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to have R80560 traced in the bank account used by the scammers, forfeited to the State.
The money is being held in a police bank account after a preservation order, while the forfeiture application was postponed to December 4.
The NDPP said it believed this money to be proceeds of organised crime. Molahleni Mopedi, a police officer at the Cybercrime Unit, stated in court papers he had received a tip-off that a Nigerian national was operating an online dating scam from a house in Kempton Park.
He described a man there who identified himself as Henry Bishop, but it was established his real name was Donald Dibei.
Mopedi also found cellphones which contained names and numbers of several women.
Upon further investigation, it came to light that the women had paid various amounts over to the men they had “fallen in love with” via Dibei’s online “dating” website.
Mopedi said it became evident Dibei was requesting bank account details from these women and was working with other individuals to commit online dating fraud.
Mopedi called the numbers on the phones and through a laptop uncovered a web of women who had allegedly been scammed by Dibei and his accomplices.
All the women had the same tale to tell; how they fell in love with the men they had chatted with online, and when asked, paid money over to them.
In one instance, a woman only identified as M said she had paid R198 000 in cash to her “lover” who called himself James.
She later couriered her diamond and sapphire ring worth R10 000 to him.
Mopedi said when he met with M, he could see she was emotionally broken.
Asked what James needed money for, she said he initially said he needed R100000 to “release stock” from his company, which he said was held by customs officials.
She paid the money into a bank account at his request and then he just kept asking for more.
Another woman identified as W met her “lover” via Facebook.
He told her he had sent her a gift, but the “courier man” told her to pay him R3 960 before the package could be released.
She said she never received her package nor heard from her “lover” again.
A had a similar tale to tell. She was elated when she met her “lover” on the online dating site Zoosk.
They communicated over WhatsApp and she was even more delighted when he phoned her and she heard his “French” accent.
He told her he had financial problems and she said she only got a disability grant.
By the time he had her hooked, she had opened a bank account for him and deposited her grant in it. He eventually withdrew all her cash.
A woman identified as H surfed an online dating site and came across a man calling himself Johnson Gilmore who said he came from the UK but was staying in Kempton Park.
They exchanged email addresses and contact details and they communicated for a while via the internet and WhatsApp, as he refused to use Skype or video chat.
He told her he had family problems, and that his sister had died.
From November 2015 to March 2016, she made 47 Money Market payments totalling R140 000 at the Checkers in Springs to “Gilmore” until all her money was spent.