South African law enforcers in Cape Town, with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), on Tuesday morning swooped on suspected Nigerian fraudsters accused of preying on lonely hearts to steal millions of rand.
Using dating sites and social media the suspects conned vulnerable widows and divorcees into believing that they were in a genuine romantic relationship only to be scammed out of their hard-earned money.
Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, the heartless thieves concocted sob stories about why they needed money.
They would claim they needed money to settle taxes to release a massive inheritance, or essential overseas travel, and so forth.
Law enforcement authorities said they were aware the romance thieves had so far siphoned off over R100 million from victims’ bank accounts.
Several foreign nationals said to be from Nigeria were arrested in the swoop.
The operation was initiated based on the Mutual Legal Assistance from Central Intelligence Authorities of the United States of America that was approved by the Republic of South Africa.
“The indictment indicates that the suspects in South Africa, Cape Town were defrauding victims in an online/social media scams (dating scams), internet fraud and money laundering,” said Colonel Katlego Mogale from the SA police service.
The colonel said eight suspects were arrested during the early morning multi-disciplinary operation involving the Hawks, Crime Intelligence, K9, National Intervention Unit, Special Task Force and Criminal Record Center, Metro police Cape Town.
They will be charged with a variety of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire/mail fraud/mail and money laundering.
“The suspects in this investigation are alleged to have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate originating abroad,” said Colonel Mogale.
The FBI estimates that victims lost more than 100 million rand in romance scams from 2011 to date.