By Steve Nolan
(U.K.) Conman Oluwamayola Ajayi, 31, preyed on four single women on popular dating website Match.com using a series of aliases and outlandish stories to fleece them of their cash.
He even sent email threats, purportedly from a captor, claiming he had been kidnapped and would be killed if a ransom was not paid.
Ajayi, who was nominated for best international act at the 2011 Gospel Music Awards under his stage name MaioJoe, was jailed for conspiracy to defraud at Snaresbrook Crown Court with Judge Sarah Paneth saying that it was clear he intended to defraud his victims 'for much more money' than he did. He blew all the money on a luxury lifestyle, including a holiday to South Africa.Judge Paneth added: 'This was not money these women had to spare, it was money they needed back urgently. Having spent all of their money you pursued them for more by saying you would be killed if they did not pay.'
The court heard how he gained the women’s trust before persuading them to hand over their savings to fund business enterprises insisting the cash would be repaid.
His victims, who all live in America and Canada, were ‘completely taken in’ by his elaborate lies. They were left humiliated and some were financially ruined by the scam, which ran between November 2009 and August 2010.
One victim handed over more than $125,000 (now £78,662) from her late husband’s life savings and dead mother’s estate, which she had earmarked for retirement.
Another disabled woman from Nova Scotia was duped into giving Ajayi almost $38,000 (£23,913) after he pretended to be Travis David McFly, a United States Airforce pilot serving in Iraq.
Prosecutor Markus Rickard said: ‘He told a story to her about some gold bars he had found and that he wanted to get them out of Iraq so they could secure their financial future. This inevitably led to the woman having supply money via an intermediary in London, to enable the gold bars to be taken from Iraq. She was completely taken in by him and intended to spend the rest of her life with him. At one point, she arranged to meet him at an airport and waited for five hours for him, but he did not turn up. ‘This has left her flat broke and deeply embarrassed.’
Ajayi pocketed around $30,000 (£18,873) from another internet lover, leaving her in financial dire straits.
The singer also posed as a project manager in the oil and gas industry to fleece $7,000 (£4,404) from his final victim, telling her he needed the cash for expenses including a ‘Crude Oil Lifting Licence’. He told all but one of the women that he was a white widower with children from Britain called Mark West, who was currently living in the US. Ajayi funnelled his ill-gotten gains through false bank accounts, mainly using the fictional identity of Jose Fernando Rodrigues-Guedes.
Mr Rickard added: ‘The defendant systematically and repeatedly misrepresented himself to lonely females using the internet and cheated them out of £120,000 from November 2009 until August 2010.
‘The victims of his deceptions have been left embarrassed and fearful and they have all suffered substantial financial loss or ruin.’
Ajayi was arrested last August at the home he shares with his wife in Chadwell Heath, Essex.
During interview in a prepared statement, he insisted one of his victims was the girlfriend of a friend who owed him money. He claimed he used an account in the name of Rodrigues-Guedes as he did not have one in his own name.
The computer equipment on which police found scores of emails with money transfers, credit card details, bank statements, personal information and photographs belonged to the ‘real’ Rodrigues-Guedes, Ajayi claimed.
But Rodrigues-Guedes has never been found, prompting police to believe he is simply an identity dreamed up by Ajayi to carry out his con. Ajayi denied conspiracy to defraud, fraud, concealing criminal property, using criminal property and two counts of possessing articles for use in frauds. He was unanimously convicted by a jury on all counts after a trial after admitting a single count of possessing a false identity document with intent.
A spokesman for match.com today urged users to follow its safety guidelines when online dating. He said: 'Sadly the tiny minority of people who try to exploit others is not confined to dating sites or even the internet, it’s across all walks of life. We urge our members to follow the safe dating guidance we provide across our site and via email when meeting new people, whether that’s online, through friends or in a bar. Most importantly requests for money or financial assistance are not acceptable. You should never send money to anyone you meet online; just as you would never give money to someone you recently met in a pub or cafe.'