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Surrey Police issue warning over romance fraud

6 minute read
Surrey Police issue warning over romance fraud

Published at 1:34pm 14th February 2020. (Updated at 1:39pm 14th February 2020)

It is a day of romance but beware of who you speak to online. 

A warning from Surrey police after two women handed over £240,000 to men they thought they were in relationships with. 

Five people have been ordered to pay back over £80,000 that they took from victims of romance fraud.

The group hid behind the false personas of ‘Kevin Churchill’ and ‘Kevin Thompson’, posing as wealthy businessmen to target women.

The fraudsters got to know their victims and then started asking to borrow money citing everything from help paying for veterinary bills, to legal fees and travel costs.  

Believing they were in a loving relationship, two victims handed over a total of £240,000 between 2016 and 2017.

Following their conviction last year, Surrey and Sussex financial investigators began the complex work of pursuing the five people using the Proceeds of Crime Act legislation.

Daniel Keh, Obed Addo, Eric Ocansey, Yaw Sarpong and Nicholas Adade were subject to confiscation hearings at Guildford Crown Court on 24 January, when they were found to have benefited  £403,350.62. from their crimes. 

They have spent much of the money, and officers were only able to identify £80,793.69 worth of assets to claim back from them.

The other three men, who are thought to have been the ringleaders for the fraud itself, are believed to have spent the money as they received it – splashing out on restaurants and expensive living.

  • Eric Ocansey, 36 (from Birmingham), took £110,155.77 from the fraud but his only asset is a computer, worth £250, which he will have to sell.
  • Yaw Sarpong, 23 (from Emsworth, Hampshire), will have to sell his car to raise £500 of the £24,821.13 he was shown to benefit.
  • Nicholas Adade, 24 (from Stoke on Trent), will have to surrender all the money in his bank account - £33.69 – towards his total benefit of £11,153.31. Both Sarpong and Adade are due to be deported once they have served their sentences.
on phone

At the time they were sentenced, ‘Sharon’, a mother of two grown-up children, shared the impact the scam had had on her:

“I lost my sense of self-worth and my integrity which through the help of victim support and the support of my children, I’ve managed to restore. There were some very black days and it’s been an uphill battle.

“Financially, I lost everything and this will continue throughout the rest of my life. I am systematically repaying those I borrowed from and I’ve had to get a flat share. I just manage to cover my share of the rent and bills and have nothing left over.”

While officers were able to identify over £403,000 of criminal funds officers are not legally able to return money to victims without a clear link between the victim and the criminal funds. 

Sharon, along with another victim Diane, lost around £240,000 but they will only jointly receive around £3600 between them from money seized from the gang.

Detective Constable Rebecca Mason of Surrey Police’s Economic Crime Unit crimes like this play mercilessly on people's emotions :

“This type of crime plays mercilessly on personal emotions. These women have gone from the high excitement of being in love to the extreme low of realising they have been victims of crime and their trust and generosity has been completely abused.

“I can’t emphasise enough, having got to know them throughout this case, that these are both intelligent, sensible women who were taken advantage of by a cunning, cruel, and highly manipulative gang of fraudsters.

“It is thanks to these women, these criminals are now behind bars and cannot hurt other people but if we can do one more positive thing – it is to spread the word on their behalf about how to stay safe when dating online. They don’t want anyone else to be left as financially and emotionally devastated as they have been.”

“By going after them financially, we want to make it clear that crime does not pay.

"The benefit of the Proceeds of Crime Act Legislation is that we can revisit their financial situation again and again until they have paid off all the money they benefitted from through their crimes.”

Bernadette Lawrie BEM is Surrey Police’s Financial Safeguarding Officer, a specialist role supporting vulnerable victims of fraud:

“The victims in this case should be praised.

"We often find that victims of romance fraud can be embarrassed about coming forward and blame themselves.

"We don’t blame, or judge them for a single second; we know how ruthless and clever these criminals are – and make no mistake, this is a crime - and how easy it is to be taken in by them.

“Fraudsters take money but they also take away their victims’ confidence, and destroy lives. We do all we can to help and support romance fraud victims to move on from this and make sure they don’t become victims of this crime again.”

Detective Constable Rebecca Mason of Surrey Police’s Economic Crime Unit continued:

“With thoughts turning to love for Valentine’s Day, it’s pertinent to consider the risks of meeting someone romantically online. Across Surrey and Sussex we received a combined total of 273 reports of Romance Fraud in 2019 – with victims aged between 17 and 100 (though most are aged over 60).

"On average each victim lost £22,000.

“If you feel you’ve been a victim of romance fraud, I would really urge you to report it to Surrey Police on 101, or online on our website.”