Norwich man facing prison for role in scamming US widows and divorcees on internet dating websites
09:43 21 August 2013
A Norfolk trio coaxed thousands of pounds out of an American woman in a complex internet dating scam, a court has heard.
Tips for staying safe online
1. Choose a reputable online dating service.
2. Make a conscious choice about the image you project on the dating site.
3. Stay incognito for awhile. Create your profile with care. Don’t reveal anything that would compromise your safety. To maintain your anonymity, get acquainted using the service’s messaging system. As your trust grows, switch to standard e-mail and then phone conversations before you meet in person. Never include your full name, phone number, or location information (home or work) in your profile, or during early communications with others.
4. Avoid those rose-colored glasses. Be realistic. Read the profiles of others with scepticism. As you correspond or talk on the phone, ask questions, seek direct answers, and note any inconsistencies. Trust your instincts.
5. Check to see if a potential date has a reputation among other daters on the service.
6. Set up a few safe first dates. Keep it short. Arrange to meet your match in a public place such as a restaurant or coffee shop at a busy time of day. Avoid secluded places such as parks or isolating activities like hikes. Never meet at your place or theirs.
7. You have the right to walk away at any time.
8. Don’t be a fool in love. Even when you feel you have met the “right” person for you, tread carefully and keep your defences in place.
9. Err on the side of caution.
10. Report fakes, frauds, and other predators.
11. If a date asks you for a loan or any financial information, report it. No matter how sad the “hard luck” story, it is virtually always a scam. If con artists didn’t tell convincing stories, they would never make money. Scam artists are pros at manipulation of your pocket book, your information, and sadly, sometimes your heart.
Akinleye Oderinde, his wife Marian Oderinde and Edowede Omozokpia preyed on American widows and divorcees, building up their trust over several months before claiming they needed cash to pay for treatment for a supposed sick child.
However, the trio now face a possible jail term after one of their victims came forward after being conned into handing over $25,000 (roughly £15,000).
Prosecution at Norwich Crown Court believe they were involved in a wider scam which had managed to con its victims of a total of around £650,000.
Akinleye Oderinde, 28, formerly of Telegraph Lane East in the Thorpe Hamlet area of Norwich and now of no fixed abode, was yesterday found guilty by a jury of money laundering.
Marian Oderinde, 56, of Priory Close in Sporle, near Swaffham, had previously pleaded guilty to money laundering, as had 27-year-old Omozokpia, of Horn Pie Road in the Bowthorpe area of Norwich.
All three will return to the court on Wednesday, October 16 to be sentenced, with Judge Stephen Holt warning Oderinde that he was facing a likely prison sentence “as part of a wider scam”.
The jury had heard how Oderinde, a former business student at the University of East Anglia, was charged with money laundering on January 25, 2011 after he converted $25,000 dollars from one of his victims.
David Wilson, prosecuting, alleged £15,232 was the cash which one of the American victims had sent to a man she believed was John Aldephos, who she met on a dating website in December 2009.
It was said he told her his wallet was stolen and then he said he had a sick child who was in hospital and did not have the cash for treatment, so she took out a loan for $25,000 and it then arrived in Oderinde’s bank account.
Akinleye Oderinde claimed the cash was for a car he sold, saying he was involved in a business buying cars in the US and exporting them to Nigeria.
But Judge Holt said: “He asked for more and when she said no, he became abusive and she stopped corresponding with him.”
Speaking after the verdict, Det Con Laurie Appleton, who spearheaded Norfolk Constabulary’s investigation, which included working with the London branch of the FBI, said there were likely to be more victims of the trios scam.
He added: “The victims in America are either divorcees or widows. They were going on to dating websites looking, for want of a better word, a husband.
“Then on the dating sites the photos supposedly of the scammers would be of good looking white men of about the same age.
“They would say they were living in America but working in Scotland in the oil industry and had been working there a couple of years and were due to be going back to America when the contract finished.
“They would say they were expecting a really hefty pay-off of between three quarters of a million and a million dollars.
“They would contact them for between four and six weeks and would almost always pose as being widowed as well. Then they would introduce a seven or eight-year-old child.
“Then disaster would strike and the child would have to go to hospital and they would need about $25,000 because they are foreign nationals and have to pay.
“Of course the American women didn’t know that isn’t how it works here and came up with the money.”
DC Appleton said he communicated with six US women but only one had reported the scam to authorities, although four had realised what had happened but tried to move on with their lives.
He said he had a tough job persuading two of the women of what had happened and offered simple advice for people unsure of who they can trust on the internet, adding: “What they should do, quite honestly, is only speak to people they can see on a webcam and then if they won’t, don’t speak to them.
“One of these women had asked them to set up a webcam but they kept coming up with excuses for why they couldn’t.”
Judge Holt decided not to grant bail to Akinleye Oderinde, despite the other two people connected to the case being granted it, as he felt there was a “substantial risk” that he would try to flee the country.
This came after Oderinde had gone missing from the case for around 40 minutes last Friday, after being asked to surrender his passport.