A Nigerian man, who ended up in Cape Town by pretending he was a student, admitted this week that he used an online dating site to scam women out of more than R1.2m.
Ndubusi Ifediora, 31, entered into a plea and sentence agreement in Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court this week for charges that were usually quite tricky to investigate.
He was sentenced to 12 years in jail, wholly suspended for five years, and had to pay back what he took from the victims.
The two women in their 50s, both from Texas in the USA, sent him expensive gadgets and money.
Ifediora did not have a job, but entered the country with a degree in sociology.
The ruling comes in the middle of Cyber Crime Awareness month.
Besides sifting through electronic evidence for 16 counts of fraud, investigators had to contend with Ifediora flushing a sim card down the toilet when he was arrested in June. He later admitted the sim card held incriminating evidence against him.
A Hawks team seized three phones and three laptops from his apartment in Rochester Road, Table View.
Preyed on lonely women
He admitted in his plea that he used online dating site Match.Com to prey on vulnerable, trusting and lonely women.
This was done with other unknown syndicate members using false identities and random photos of generally attractive people.
The first woman, Patti Kilpatrick, befriended a man she thought was “Michael Brich” last year. He told her he was raised in Germany and a widower, with one son attending medical school.
She sent him an Apple computer, an iPhone and an Apple Watch after he phoned her to say his gadgets had been stolen.
Another woman, Rita Love, befriended a man she knew as “Scott Egil” in March this year. He apparently had problems with equipment and his credit card was stolen. He asked her for money and she transferred it.
Investigators calculated that the women paid him around R1.24m.
Ifediora also faced charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and contravening the Immigration Act.
He confessed that he entered the country with a study visa based on false representations to home affairs. He had lied about being registered at a technical college.
He was subsequently deported to Nigeria.
‘If it looks too good to be true, it usually is’
The court took into account that he was remorseful, had a one-year-old child, and suffered from sickle-cell anaemia. He had been taking chronic medication for the incurable disease for years.
Western Cape Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha welcomed the sentence.
He said the court ordered Ifediora to pay over R500 000 into the criminal asset recovery account, to ensure the victims were reimbursed.
“The sentence is a culmination of sterling detective work put in by the team from the commercial unit of the Hawks. It is an open secret that cases of this nature are not easy to solve. We say well done to the team,” he said.
The public were warned not to respond to emails, social media invitations, and online messages from unknown people.
“If it is real, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.”