A romance fraudster who conned a Nottinghamshire woman out of £157,000 has been jailed.
Frank Adozi, 32, used an alias to contact the woman on a dating website and social media.
Using the name ‘Mark McCarthy’, Adozi struck up a relationship with the victim – who was in a vulnerable position having recently split from her partner – and persuaded her to lend him vast amounts of money.
After gaining her trust, he invented a story about him working on an oil rig and that he had taken the wrong bank card with him.
He said he urgently needed to borrow funds to cover travel costs and to send money to his daughter.
Over a two-month period, the woman made 34 transfers totalling £157,332.25 – money she was expecting to get back and then put towards a new house.
But in May last year, she uncovered his lies and called the police.
Explaining what happened, the victim told officers she was drawn in by the fraudster as he seemed “nice” and “genuine”. But as time went on, she felt pressured into sending him vast sums of money having been emotionally blackmailed.
Adozi, of Kneeton Vale, Sherwood, Nottingham, was the prime suspect in the case by the time he was stopped by police for driving offences on 6 January 2022.
Upon checking his details, he was arrested due to being an outstanding suspect for romance fraud.
Enquiries including mobile phone analysis revealed he had targeted at least six other women.
Detectives contacted all six victims, with four revealing they had been duped into transferring money.
Describing him as “sweet-talking”, one victim said “Mark” told her he lived in West Bridgford, near the cricket ground, and that he drove a Range Rover. She was conned out of £1,930.
Another victim lost £1,430 after Adozi concocted a false story that persuaded her to transfer him money for taxi fares and flights back to the UK. Two other victims were duped out of £520 and £40 respectively.
Other potential victims were also contacted by detectives but did not wish to provide statements.
Records showed Adozi spent victims’ money on a lavish lifestyle including designer clothes, the high-end Range Rover and large amounts of jewellery which he planned to launch a business with.
Today (1 April 2022) at Nottingham Crown Court he was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to fraud by false representation.
The court heard Adozi was a prolific fraudster who had previously been jailed for four-and-a-half years for similar offences.
He was released from prison in 2020 but soon returned to his old ways, with the victim who lost £157,000 telling police she had met “Mark” on a dating website in January 2021.
His dating app profile stated he was aged 60, from Nottingham and 6ft tall. It added he had a master’s degree, had children, was “trying to quit smoking” and was looking for a “real relationship”.
After exchanging hundreds of messages and speaking to “Mark” over the phone, the woman believed she had found romance again, only to be left devastated by Adozi’s cruelty and deception.
Her bank has since refunded less than half the amount she was scammed out of.
In a witness statement, the woman revealed the depths Adozi went to in order to trick her into parting with £157,000.
It read: “He explained to me he was born in Australia and grew up in the United States. He said in 2005 he relocated to the UK to be with his wife Lisa who had now sadly died.
“He had a 13-year-old daughter Tamara who was attending a boarding school in New York. He told me he was thinking of leaving the dating site as he was worried about attracting the wrong kind of person who would just be after his money.
“He came across as a nice family man who was down-to-earth and genuine.”
The victim realised she had been scammed when the fraudster told her he was getting ready to board a British Airways flight from Dubai to the UK. She checked the flights and saw there were no British Airways flights scheduled between the two destinations.
Detective Constable Carl Miller, of Nottinghamshire Police’s fraud investigation team, said he was pleased Adozi is now behind bars and unable to harm further women.
He said: “Adozi had no regard for his victims. He went to great lengths to build rapport and gain their trust, before fabricating stories to exploit them out of thousands.
“The fact that one victim lost £157,000 – money she planned to buy a house with – makes this one of the worst romance frauds we’ve ever come across. It is also a unique case in that the fraudster operated from the UK as opposed to being based overseas.
“Fraudsters like Adozi target people in vulnerable situations and have no care that they may financially ruin their victims.
“In this case, a number of victims were identified who had not contacted police. We want to encourage all those who think they’ve been a victim of romance fraud to not feel embarrassed or ashamed but rather report it.
“Romance fraud is a particularly callous offence and Nottinghamshire Police will always seek to get justice for victims.
“We do this because not only do fraudsters inflict financial loss on their victims, they also cause an enormous amount of emotional hurt and pain.”
Detective Sergeant Ashley Xavier praised the work of officers in bringing Adozi to justice.
She said: “Adozi demonstrated a cynical disregard for his victims, grooming them with romantic promises before dishonestly persuading them to provide him with financial assistance.
“Thanks to extensive and thorough investigatory work and the support of the individual victims, Nottinghamshire Police has brought an end to Adozi’s fraudulently activities.
“Hopefully, this case will serve to act as a deterrent to other romance fraudsters who prey on victims in the same way.”
People looking to form relationships are urged to take simple steps to help protect themselves, families and friends from romance frauds, with nearly £92 million having been reported lost in the UK in the last year.
Nottinghamshire Police advises anyone using dating websites to avoid giving away too many personal details when speaking online to someone you’ve never met in person, as it can lead to your identity being stolen.
You should stay on the site’s messaging service until you meet in person; don’t be tempted to switch to other platforms that offer less protection. And most importantly, no matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online and how much you trust them, if you haven’t met them in person do not send them any money.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to ActionFraud.police.uk and follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, which offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help people spot scams and protect themselves against fraud.