Forest Gate con-artist jailed for ‘romance’ scam
17:00 10 November 2012
The man behind a sophisticated and lucrative online dating scam, who used love as a means to dupe women, has been sent to jail for six years and four months.
Hery Agunu, 25, was sentenced on October 25 after he had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by misrepresentation after a bank in America stopped a payment which it believed to be fraudulent and alerted the US authorities.
They handed the case over to the Met Police’s Operation Podium, which led the investigation that tracked Agunu down.
The court had heard that Agunu, from Forest Gate, used Facebook, dating websites and other social media to portray himself as a white, widowed American businessman in search of love and companionship. He built a number of aliases, using details of real people.
He spent anything from two weeks to months on grooming his victims into forming a relationship with him and even falling in love. Then he would persuade the women that he was struggling financially and needed to borrow money until he got paid.
In one scam, Agunu told the victim he had won a multi-million pound contract to deliver “platform and transport services” for the Met Police during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. He went to great lengths in researching and writing a fake lucrative contract showing himself as the winner of the work.
Podium have identified 17 victims from America, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, aged from their mid-fifties to late seventies. One victim, a 69-year-old woman from the US, sent Agunu £144,000 as a result of his scam. Another victim lost so much money to him that she has had to declare herself bankrupt.
Agunu worked with 39-year-old Evelina Sisin from Edmonton, whose bank account was used to launder some of the money. She pleaded guilty in June to money laundering and was sentenced to 18 months in jail on October 25.
After the case, Det Supt Nick Downing, of Operation Podium, said: “Agunu was a sophisticated and charismatic operator who deliberately wormed his way into way into women’s affections, promising love and marriage, simply to rip them off. He has made thousands of pounds, and left a number of women suffering more than just financial loss.
“My advice to anyone is simple – no matter what the circumstances, never give money to anyone you meet online and cannot prove for yourself they are who they say, even if they use the name of a well-known organisation, such as ours, or produce professional-looking documents in an attempt to add credence to their claims. Such things are all too easy to fake.”
Agunu, of Odessa Road, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud at Isleworth Crown Court on October 22.
The judge ordered that other offences of money laundering lie on file.
* More information about how to avoid becoming a victim of online scams can be found at www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/social_networking.htm