October 10th 2014
Family members of a businessman jailed for aiding a romance fraud gang screamed and fell to the floor in shock as he was handed a three year jail sentence yesterday.
39 year-old Osaro Osaigbovo of Dartford, Kent, laundered almost £200,000 for the gang, whose members preyed on victims hopeful of finding love on dating websites including Match.com and Adult Friend Finder.
Posing as 'Chloe Elsevier', a young artist living in County Durham, the gang duped a 59 year-old Belgian man out of more than £320,000. Despite being warned by police, the victim continued to send funds and even sent the gang a copy of the police warning.
A woman from Florida lost nearly £25,000 to the gang, posing as a Los Angeles neurosurgeon who needed to deal with the affairs of a dead business partner.
Southwark Crown Court heard that in 2010 and 2011 Osaigbovo laundered almost £194,000 and received over £45,000 from the fraud. He was not one of the scammers but laundering funds make his role a key one. He denied the offences but was found guilty of money laundering and three counts of acquiring criminal property. He was found not guilty of a second count of money laundering and seven further counts of acquiring criminal property.
Osaigbovo's sister-in-law was acquitted of entering into a money laundering arrangement and five counts of acquiring criminal property.
Danny Robinson, prosecuting, said: "These were particularly mean offences committed upon those looking for love and relationships over the internet."
Mr Recorder Christopher Morris-Coole, presiding, said: "This was an iniquitous trick that seems to be gathering momentum through the use of internet dating agencies throughout the world. In this case there was clear evidence that persons had joined up with internet dating organisations and through that they had entered into regular communications with certain persons. These persons were fraudsters and pretended to be totally different people to who they were. The actual stories given to the subscribers were subtle and developed over time in order to gain their confidence. The victims were vulnerable people seeking friendship and long-term security, putting their trust and faith in these tricksters who appeared genuine to them."
He told Osaigbovo: "Your role was not the original confidence trickster, but it is clear from the evidence that you became engaged in the money laundering process at a very early stage. I am approaching sentencing on the basis that you were the money launderer, and therefore you were not the ultimate beneficiary." Mr Morris-Cole continued: "I am not prepared to accept what was said that you were simply performing these acts as favours. Your behaviour in this case was so serious that only a custodial sentence is appropriate.’"