A man and woman in the U.K. have been sentenced to jail for defrauding 80 victims, mostly gay men, they met on dating apps over a 16-year period.
According to a report in MyLondon, Fredrick Diji, 37, received a prison sentence of eight years at Guildford Crown Court in South London on Friday, December 23, and his partner, probation officer Raquel Johnson, 43, was sentenced to three years and nine months. Diji had earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, concealing criminal property, and possession of an identity document for improper means. Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.
"Romance fraud is a horrendous crime and the cost to individual victims goes well beyond financial loss," Jane Mitchell, a prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said after the hearing. "It is despicable that Diji targeted men either because of their sexuality, age, or poor health in order to defraud them."
Diji used various dating apps like Gaydar and Match to prey on gay men, first luring them with promises of love and companionship, only to later claim financial hardship and ask the victims for money. He used various lies to fool his victims, including that he was being held by Dutch immigration authorities, that he needed money to visit and buy medicine for his ailing mother, and that he needed money to cover his mother's funeral costs or obtain his inheritance among other scams. Diji reportedly defrauded one man out of more than $120,000 over a 14-year period. Johnson aided in the scam by laundering the money received through her bank accounts.
"Diji had his routine down to a tee, and assisted by Johnson, they would work together using a number of fake personas to target victims online, love-bomb them with promises of meeting in person and declarations of love, before fabricating reasons for desperately needing money, telling the victims that if they really loved them they would help them out," Detective Constable Becky Mason, an investigating officer on the case, said after the hearing. "It was the ultimate manipulation which preyed on people's emotions and good nature. I am incredibly grateful to each of the victims for supporting our investigation and I hope that today's result gives them some sense of justice."
The pair spent the money on gym memberships, takeout food, groceries, and dental care.
Investigators eventually identified almost 180 victims. 80 individuals were victimized via romance fraud, 22 through investment fraud, and another 77 through identity theft.
A spokesperson for Match apologized to the victims and reminded users to always be on the lookout for folks using the site to victimize others.
"We are constantly reviewing our safety methods and proactively communicate safe dating advice to our members and within our platform," the Match spokesperson said following the sentencing. "We encourage everyone to take the same precautions when meeting people online, as they would if they were meeting through friends or in a pub, bar, or public space."