A woman involved in an online dating scam has been jailed 18 months by the Financial and Economic Crime Division of the Accra High Court for fraud.
The convict, Elizabeth Caldwell, was also slapped with a GH¢16,800 fine and will serve a further 48 months in jail if she fails to pay the fine. The convict defrauded an American, Ms Kathleen A. Judd, of $20,000.
An accomplice, one Davis Wingate, defrauded Ms Judd in the online dating scam through Ms Caldwell’s bank account.
The convict, who goes by several aliases, such as Pat Agriology, Vida Patt, Chigozie Awom or Obinna, was found guilty on two counts of defrauding by false pretence and money laundering.
The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, therefore, ordered the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to transmit $20,000 in the convict’s frozen account to the victim.
Ms Judd is a flight attendant in the United States of America (USA).
Prosecutors told the court that in March 2012, she met Wingate on an online dating website and as someone hoping to get married, the two established a love relationship online.
Wingate introduced himself to the victim as an American engineer who travelled to Ghana periodically to embark on building projects.
After the relationship was firmly established, Wingate told Ms Judd that he was being transferred to Ghana to work on the construction of a bridge.
According to the prosecutors, Wingate used the relationship to dupe the victim of various sums and electronic gadgets such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets.
“Wingate promised to repay all the money once he had completed the purported project in Ghana, for which he was expected to pay about $800,000,’’ the prosecutors stated.
Ms Caldwell’s role
According to the prosecutors, Wingate told Ms Judd that he had a translator by name Alfred Quarcoo and was able to convince Ms Judd to send money through the said Quarcoo’s wife, who happened to be Ms Caldwell.
“Wingate deceived and convinced the victim that the convict was Quarcoo’s wife and should, therefore, wire money into her account,’’ the prosecutors added.
Between March 2012 and October 2013, Ms Judd sent various sums to the convict’s bank account.
“The most significant and sizeable transaction occurred on July 8, 2013 when Kathleen wired $20,000 from her bank account in the USA to Elizabeth’s bank account in Ghana to be given to Wingate,’’ the prosecution said.
Investigations later revealed that Ms Elizabeth Caldwell was not the convict’s real name and that she registered with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in order to open a bank account for the sole purpose of receiving the money from the victim.
It was also established that the name Davis Wingate had been used to dupe many unsuspecting victims looking for love on the Internet.
The police subsequently arrested both the convict and Wingate but the latter jumped bail and has since not been found.
Delivering her judgement, Mrs Justice Asare-Botwe held that the name Elizabeth Caldwell was created by the convict and the said Wingate with the sole purpose of defrauding Ms Judd.
The court further held that there was a prima facie case of money laundering because it was the proceed of the case of defrauding by false pretence which the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt.