A Nigerian living in the UK has been jailed for four years after he was found guilty of fleecing four women of almost £100,000 (N27.9m) by posing as a Royal Marine on dating website, Match.com.
MailOnline reports that the convict, 31-year-old Adewale Adewole(pictured) wooed his victims after falsely claiming to be an army captain who ran an orphanage in Africa.
Adopting the name Timmy Francis, he claimed he was looking for romance on the site with two profiles: ‘Charismatic Brit’ and ‘To live and love’.
But the pictures he used to create an appealing profile were actually of a Royal Marine Commando called Joshua McGowan who was unaware his images were being used by Adewole.
The unnamed women who replied to his seemingly perfect profile fell for his charms but were then duped out of their money when Adewole claimed he was robbed at his ‘orphanage’.
The women sent him cash and paid his hotel bills thinking they were bailing out their suitor – only for him to divert the money into the bank account of his wife who shared his home with their two children in Eccles, Greater Manchester.
Manchester Crown Court heard yesterday that Adewole, a father of three, also splashed out on iPads, TVs and designer clothes.
Police who investigated the scam discovered the women had tried to meet up with him but he always stood them up.
He now faces jail after admitting four charges of fraud but is disputing some of the facts and is running a ‘trial of issue.’
Prosecutor Charlotte Brandon told the court the four victims were registered with Match.com and did not know each other.
She added: ‘They were all contacted on the dating site by a man called Timmy Francis who had two profiles under the mottos ‘To Live and Love’ and ‘Charismatic Brit’.
‘They had contact with him during the period the fraud took place via text message, phone and email.
‘He told them he had been a captain in the army. He also said he ran an orphanage in Africa called the Hope House Foundation, for which he set up a website with his own mobile phone number on.
‘There was a profile picture on his Match accounts and he sent some of the women photographs of himself – all of these pictures were actually of a Royal Marine Commander called Joshua McGowan who knew nothing of what was going on.
‘Each of the women wanted to find out more about him and were led to believe they were in a relationship with him.
‘Although they arranged to meet, he never kept to the arrangements and never did meet any of the victims.’
Miss Brandon added: ‘He told the women that on a trip to Africa he was the victim of a crime and needed money. The crime meant he could not access his own funds.
‘He said they would get their money back and would be sent letters from the World Health Organisation to show that he would be able to pay them.
‘These letters were sent, but from an M30 Manchester postmark. He also sent them links to websites which, when logging in with details he gave them, appeared to show that he had a huge bank balance and would eventually be able to pay them back.
‘One woman was asked to pay for a hotel for him. When she rang the number he gave her for the hotel, they also confirmed the information and she agreed to pay it.
‘She later received a cheque addressed to him for £35,000 to prove he had money, but this was later discovered to be a stolen cheque forged in his own handwriting.
‘Over a number of months each woman transferred significant sums of money via bank accounts and Western Union moneygrams and sent items to the defendant’s home address. They bought electronic items, took out credit cards and loans and bought clothes from Next.
‘Many of the goods were sent to his home address in Eccles from where the victims believed they would be forwarded on to the defendant in Nigeria.
‘When the women stopped sending money, they never heard from him again.’
The court heard the total amount stolen including the value of the household goods and Western Union transfers was £98,140.
Adewole was arrested in October 2012 at his flat and £4,500 in cash was found under his bed.
A digital camera was found purchased by one of the victims, but containing pictures of the defendant and his wife and children. Designer clothes and shoes were also found worth £2,000.
Adewole’s wallet was also seized and contained several SIM cards, some of which contained the phone numbers of the victims.
His two Blackberry phones were also seized – on these three different email accounts were in use which were linked to the two Match.com accounts.
He was bailed and later tried to call one of the woman again under the name Timmy Francis and was arrested again.
When questioned he claimed to know nothing of the orphanage but that the £4,500 was his and claimed the majority of the items found in his flat were to go to his mother in Nigeria.
He added all he knew of the bank transfers was that his flatmate Samson Ajayi had asked him to have some money transferred to a relative – and claimed Mr Ajayi was responsible.
He admitted he had used Match.com between 2010 and 2012 but could not remember when exactly.
Detective Constable Sean Nicholls, from Greater Manchester Police, told the hearing: ‘There has never been any evidence to prove there was someone else involved.
‘There was possibly some help involved somewhere in Nigeria. There may well have been more than one person assisting him, male and female.
‘But I believe any phone calls made to the victims were from the defendant himself.
‘I believe Timmy Francis is a made-up name. I have made enquiries in our systems but there is nothing to suggest he exists.’
Adewole, who arrived in UK in 2009 on a visa to study, said: ‘The fraud was Samson’s idea. I got involved because I had a few financial difficulties at the time.
‘I did not speak with the complainants. I did not know money was being sent to Nigeria but I knew it was being sent to my bank account and my wife’s bank account.
‘I do not know where Samson is at the moment. He travels a lot. I have no idea about the details of this fraud. I didn’t even know how many victims there were.
‘But I pleaded guilty because if I had not let my bank account or flat be used, these women would not have suffered in the way that they did.
‘Samson said he was expecting some money. He said he had no bank accounts to receive the money so I wanted to help him. He was owing me rent at the time and this was the only way he could pay me. ‘
Sentencing Adewole today, Judge David Stockdale said: ‘The evidence against the defendant is, in my judgement, overwhelming.
‘I am satisfied on the evidence I have heard of the facts that the defendant’s role in the enterprise in which these four women were defrauded was a leading role.
‘He was not working alone and others were involved but the use of his bank account and phones and the items found at his flat all indicate overwhelmingly that the defendant was a principle player.
‘The man called Samson has not been traced. He may have been an accomplice.. If Samson was an accomplice and took part in this operation, that does not undermine my conclusion. That is my ruling on the issue.’