More victims discovered as romance fraud trio quizzed over €100k scam
Three suspected members of an international ‘romance fraud’ gang are still being questioned at different garda stations after the Dublin District Court granted a three-day extension to the time they can be held in custody.
The extension was granted late on Tuesday night after an application by Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB).
The Herald can reveal that the massive investigation has revealed further victims from all over Ireland, as garda specialists continue to work 24/7 on seized mobile phones and computers which the gang used.
Earlier this week, we revealed a retired Irish woman lost well over €100,000 of her savings when she was targeted by the organised crime gang as part of a heartless romance fraud scam.
Three Nigerian nationals were arrested in Blanchardstown, Drogheda and Navan in what were the first ever detentions in Ireland for this type of crime.
The woman who lost the massive sum of money to the gang was “convinced to transfer large sums of cash to accounts in Ireland, Turkey, Dubai and Vietnam over a nine-month period, having met with fraudsters online via a dating site”, according to gardai.
The arrested suspects have been living in Ireland for some time, with one of the men aged 22 and the others aged 29 and 30.
In February, gardaí announced that the GNECB had received more than 75 reports of so-called ‘romance fraud’ last year, with Irish victims being conned out of more than €1m. That figure is likely to increase this year.
Historically, it appeared that older women were falling victim to this type of crime, but the profile is changing and more males are coming forward, as well as younger people.
“The traditional problem with this type of crime is that victims would often be too embarrassed to report it to gardaí, so the belief is that the number of victims out there is higher than many people might think,” a garda source said.
The scammers – convince their victims that they have met their perfect match, and often use a fake online profile to build up a relationship.
They gradually gain the victim’s trust, with a view to eventually asking them for money.
Gardaí also say romance fraudsters will often quickly try to communicate away from dating websites, and ask a lot of personal questions, while avoiding giving such information about themselves.
They will also try to establish a bond quickly, but make excuses to avoid meeting in person, and may mention money problems in the hope that potential victims offer to help.
In June it emerged that a Limerick woman aged in her 40s was conned out of a large sum of money from a romance fraudster operating online who used a fake ‘sea captain’ profile to scam victims out of their finances.
In a press statement earlier this week, Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan said: “This is a novel investigation as the senders of such emails have never been arrested in Ireland before.
“To date, the belief would always have been that criminal groups engaged in this activity are operating from outside this jurisdiction. This investigation shows that this is not always the case.
“It is anticipated that numerous injured parties from all over the world will now be identified. We would encourage other victims of this type of fraud to report incidents to local gardaí.”