‘Romance scam’ fraudster had more than 20 victims: police

OTTAWA —
A two-year police investigation that started with a Prescott, Ont. woman reporting a romance fraud has ended with dozens of charges against a 35-year-old man.

Police say the “lengthy and complex investigation” uncovered alleged romance fraud involving 21 victims.

The first of those was a Prescott, Ont. woman who contacted police in October 2019. Police were able to prevent her from losing $50,000 to the alleged fraudster, whom she met on a social media site.

“Thankfully, we were involved at a point where this could be halted before it went further,” OPP Const. Ann Collins said.

After that, police started a second investigation, involving the Ottawa unit of the OPP anti-rackets branch, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

That led to the following charges against a 35-year-old Etobicoke man:

  • Fraud over $5,000
  • Failing to comply with a release order
  • Transmitting identity information
  • Identity theft (15 counts)
  • Possession of credit card data (18 counts)
  • Possession of a credit card (nine counts)
  • Possession of an identity document (six counts)

The accused, Nosa Solomon Oriakhi, appeared in court on Brockville on Monday and was remanded into custody.

What is romance fraud?

Romance fraudsters use dating and social networking sites to contact their victims. They create accounts using stolen photos and back stories that often suggest they work in the military, overseas or in business.

They profess their love to gain victims’ trust and, eventually their money. The fraud can last years, police say, until the victims have nothing left to give.

“The fraudsters will always run into trouble and are unable to refund their victims; however, they will continue to make empty promises and ask for more money,” police said in a news release.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has received more than 1,300 reports of romance fraud from victims resulting in more than $43 million in losses this year.

Police have several tips on how to protect yourself, including:

  • Beware of individuals who quickly profess their love for you
  • Beware of people who claim to be wealthy, but need to borrow money
  • Be suspicious if they keep finding reasons to cancel in-person meetings. Meet in a public place if you proceed.
  • Never send intimate photos or videos of yourself; they could be used to blackmail you
  • Never send or accept money or cryptocurrencies to or from unknown individuals.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of fraud should contact local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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