An accused romance scammer from Nigeria alleged to have conned three women, including a 74-year-old, out of a collective R1.3 million has been nabbed thanks to the collaborative efforts of a private investigating company and the Hawks.
Using fake photographs, the man posed as a Lebanese national named “Howard Gibson Wayne” on social media.
He wooed his victims with a lie that he owned a house in Camps Bay and was a highly successful engineer engaged in multimillion-dollar construction projects.
The victims of the romance scam, aged 55, 56 and 74, were retired, semi-retired, and seeking companionship and love online.
They were from Melkbosstrand, Killarney and one lived abroad.
Private investigating company Royal Investigators said they were approached by one of the victims last month.
They said one of the victims lost her entire life savings, totalling R800 000, and was now struggling to make ends meet.
“Our dedicated investigative team, led by John Alexander and former Detective Lieutenant-Colonel Neels van Zyl from Royal Investigators, initiated a comprehensive inquiry in Gauteng to track the activities of a Nigerian national.
“This multidisciplinary operation eventually resulted in the successful arrest of (the suspect) in Fourways, Johannesburg, who was found in possession of incriminating evidence, prompting a subsequent search and seizure operation at his residence,” said Royal Investigators.
They added that at least 15 mobile phones were confiscated, and five laptops seized, all believed to have been used to commit the crimes.
Alexander said their investigation discovered a sophisticated operation, with the suspect using SIM cards that were not Rica’d and money mules to help collect the fraudulent cash.
Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Thatohatsi Mavimbela confirmed the suspect had been caught on his way to collect a parcel in Fourways last week.
“The suspect was caught during a joint operation between the Hawks and Royal Investigators. The suspect was arrested on September 13, 2023.
The suspect was arrested in Fourways on his way to pick up a parcel at PostNet. The suspect faces fraud charges,” said Mavimbela.
Sharing advice for safety online, global cybersecurity and digital privacy company Kaspersky said it was important to verify information before meeting someone in person or sharing personal information.
“Use a secure and encrypted connection when sharing personal information on online dating platforms to prevent hacking or eavesdropping.
“Avoid over-sharing: don’t share sensitive information, such as your full name, address, and financial details, until you have built a trusting relationship. Be wary of requests for money or other favours, especially if they seem unreasonable.”
The suspect is expected to make his second court appearance at the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.