A WOMAN was left ‘distraught’ after falling victim to an alleged £220,000 dating website scam, a court heard.
Deborah Cole thought she had found her ‘prince’ when a man calling himself James Richards contacted her on Match.com.
But her hope that she had found the man of her dreams was shattered when police contacted her and said they believed she may be a victim of fraud.
In a witness statement read out at Winchester Crown Court Ms Cole said: ‘I was absolutely distraught. I cried my eyes out. I felt weak, I was shaking, I was crying. I felt I had been completely taken advantage of by a man who portrayed that he was madly in love with me, but it was all about the money.
She added: ‘I wanted to find a relationship and find someone to spend the rest of my life with. He was going to be that man, he was my prince.’
The court has heard ‘James Richards’ was in fact a fake profile set up by people who are alleged to have conned vulnerable women on the dating website.
Brooke Boston, 28, of Common Lane, Titchfield,Eberechi Ekpo, 26, of Adair Road, Southsea, deny committing fraud by using a false alias to create a fictitious profile on Match.com between March 2012 and February 2014.
Boston, Ekpo, Adewunmi Nusi, 37, of Bomford Close,Thatcham, Berkshire and Monty Emu,28, of Frensham Road, Southsea, deny money laundering in relation to the alleged scam between August 2012 and December 2013.
Emmanuel Oko, 29, of Waverley Grove, Southsea, who is married to Boston, and Chukwuka Ugwu, of Somers Road,Somers Town, Portsmouth, 28, have admitted money laundering.
Oko has also admitted fraud by false representation.
They are due to be sentenced at a later date.
The court heard Deborah Cole was among victims contacted on Match.com by ‘James Richards,’ who claimed to be a middle aged man and on occasions said he was a widow.
Their contact moved on to swapping phone numbers and email addresses at his request.
With Deborah, as in other cases, ‘James’ allegedly declared his love for her, telling her his wife had died and he was living in his late mother’s Southsea home while he ‘sorted his life out.’
In her statement Ms Cole, who has previously working in banking, said: ‘He was very charming and very easy to talk to. We would speak for hours every day.’
The court heard ‘James’ told her he had been informed by a solicitor called Rod Thompson that he his father had £1m tied up in India, but that he would have to go there and pay 10 per cent in taxes to access it.
He also put her in touch with ‘Mr Thompson.’
Ms Cole’s suspicions were aroused when ‘James’ allegedly called her from India, saying he had to pay a one per cent inheritance tax and he needed £10,000.
She said in her statement: ‘James was very clever. He never directly asked for the money, however he did put you in the position whereby you wanted to help.’
Eventually called a firm called Quality Solicitors where ‘Rod Thompson’ claimed to work.
There is no suggestion that the firm is in any way involved in the alleged scam.
Miss Cole was told that no-one by than name worked at the firm, that the police would be in touch and not to pay out any money to either person.
Then the police informed her that they were probing a potential fraud.
Miss Cole is among a number of women targeted in the alleged scam on Match.com.
As reported, Suzanne Hardman from Basingstoke paid out more than £170,000 on being told a similar story after meeting ‘James Richards’ online and later speaking to Rod Thompson.
Another woman, Sylvia Tai Sen Choy, paid out about £11,300 after meeting him on the website.
A statement was also read out from alleged victim Wendy Benny, who told how she was diagnosed with cancer during her contact with ‘James.’
It read: ‘I believe he played on this throughout.’