FBI, Hawks bust eight suspects over romance scam that saw women conned out of more than R100m
Share this article:
CAPE TOWN - The provincial Community Policing Forum (CPF) has hailed the breakthrough by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into romance scams that saw victims conned out of more than R100 million.
The eight suspects aged between 33 and 52 were arrested for internet scams, money laundering and international wide scale financial fraud in Cape Town. The operation was initiated based on the mutual legal assistance from US central authorities approved by South Africa.
They are also alleged to have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate originating abroad.
Hawks spokesperson Katlego Mogale said the FBI estimated that more than 100 victims lost more than R100 million in romance scams from 2011 till to date.
Mogale said the suspects assumed fake names and trolled dating sites for their victims.
“It is alleged that these suspects allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees and believed that they were in a genuine romantic relationship but were scammed out of their hard earned money. The suspects used social media websites,online dating websites to find and connect with their victims. Once they had ingratitude themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob-stories about why they needed money, taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, and then siphoned money from victim’s accounts in excess of R100 million.The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared,” said Mogale.
Other modus operandi allegedly used by the suspects included business email compromise, where email accounts are diverted in order to change banking details.
They have been charged with a variety of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire mail fraud and money laundering.
The eight suspects were arrested during a multidisciplinary operation, with teams from the Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation Unit, Crime Intelligence(CI), K9, National Intervention Unit , Special Task Force (STF) and Criminal Record Center and Metro police.
Provincial CPF board chairperson Fransina Lukas congratulated the law enforcement agencies for the arrest of the suspects and called for more criminals to be brought to book in future.
“Scamming is a silent but devastating crime as it affects the vulnerable and their families who suffer huge financial losses. What we need is more awareness about this type of crime especially with the pending festive season,” said Lukas.