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Toronto widow out $600K in romance scam, police charge

City News - 15-10-22 Click here for original article       Back to Articles

A 63-year-old Toronto widow was involved in a "romance scam" in 2014 where she was allegedly defrauded of $609,000, police said on Thursday.

Toronto police said their investigation centres around the woman, who believed she was in a relationship with someone she met on a dating website.

"She was informed there was an emergency in some form and assistance was needed," said Toronto Detective Constable Mike Kelly. "In general there is some form of difficulty in being together - a form of crisis."

She was encouraged to pass along money on a false pretence, police allege.

The woman met the man face-to-face, gave him money in the form of cash and also wired money to him from March to June 2014.

Police said she was in a vulnerable state and that most people targeted are lonely.

"[The] woman was involved with a fictional character who doesn't exist," said police.

The man identified himself under the alias of Martin Acker or Martins Acker Jr., and claimed to be a representative of the United Nations. He had had a forged UN identification that dated as far back as 2011. Akohomen Ighedoise, 41, forged United Nations identification. Police believe there may be other victims. HANDOUT/Toronto Police

Police said that the woman went to police with the assistance of her family.

"The net effect of this was economically devastating to her," Kelly said. "We visited her shortly in the wintertime at her home and the heat was barely on, she was wearing mittens and a hat inside her home."

Kelly said that when someone asks to "send money but keep it real quiet," that it should be a sign that something is wrong.

"These situations - they are occurring in the city on a regular occurrence," he said.

Toronto investigators are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Postal Inspection Service on this investigation.

Kelly said there is not one specific plotline, but that the point is always the same: to get the victim to pass them money. And it can be done through a romance scam or lottery scam.

Police have linked the accused to a group called the Neo Black movement and believe others are involved.

The Neo Black movement, also known as The Black Axe, have intimidated and exerted influence on Nigerian people within the Greater Toronto Area.

"This is a very secretive organization," said Detective Constable Tim Tortter.

He added that the group is involved in a wide breadth of crimes including street-level violence and fraud, and that "beating" and "weapons" were used for intimidation in Toronto.

Akohomen Ighedoise, 41, of Toronto has been charged with laundering the proceeds of crime, fraud over $5,000 and participating in a criminal organization. Police said he is a member of the Neo-Black Movement and he was known as the bookkeeper.

Ikechukwu Amadi, 34, of Mississauga and Lineo Molefe, 31 of Toronto were arrested and charged in relation to the romance scam with laundering the proceeds of crime and fraud over $5,000.

The FBI indicted six people involved in wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, of those six was Ighedoise and Amadi.

Detective Sgt. Ian Nichol said these offences are committed over the internet and because of this, borders are meaningless to law enforcements.

Police are asking people to stay in close contact with loved ones, especially if they are lonely or vulnerable.

Anyone with information is being asked to contact police.

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