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Wednesday June 26, 2013

Beautician milked of more than RM1mil in cyber romance scam

Blinded by love: Supt Firdaus showing the bank statements that were seized during one of the arrests as his deputy DSP Yap Fui Lee (left) and the Insp Nazrul look on. On the table are also computers, mobile phones, automated teller machine cards and other documents that were seized in the case. Blinded by love: Supt Firdaus showing the bank statements that were seized during one of the arrests as his deputy DSP Yap Fui Lee (left) and the Insp Nazrul look on. On the table are also computers, mobile phones, automated teller machine cards and other documents that were seized in the case.

KUCHING: A woman here paid dearly for her infidelity when her cyber romance turned out to be the biggest online scam so far this year in Sarawak.

The 34-year-old beautician, who is apparently a mother, had met the man through an Internet dating site. His profile photo was that of a Caucasian man but it turned out that he was anything but that — all he was interested in was her money.

The strictly online affair lasted four months before the woman finally came to her senses but by then, she was already milked of RM1.3mil by her cyber lover’s sob story that claimed he had millions in investments but was having cash problems.

Sarawak Commercial Crimes Investigation Department head Supt Firdaus Abdullah said the woman lodged a police report on April 22 after finding out from a bank that an account had been blocked when she failed to deposit more money for the man.

Three days later, a team led by investigating officer Insp Nazrul Hisham Mohd Ali arrested two suspects.

“It later led us to the arrest of nine Nigerians — eight students and one businessman — in Kuala Lumpur with the assistance of our counterparts in Bukit Aman. Last week, we made another six arrests in connection with the case,” Supt Firdaus told a press conference yesterday.

“Five more suspects, who are all locals, are still at large and we hope to catch them soon.”

Supt Firdaus said the Nigerians were suspected to be the masterminds of the case. He also revealed that the six arrested last week were all women, aged 21 to 54, and during their arrests, police seized various items and documents related to the case at their residence and place of work.

Among the documents were ATM slips, bank statements, falsified documents with the letterhead “Petroliam Nasional Bhd” (Petronas) and an affidavit supposedly issued by the UK High Court.

“They communicated with the victim everyday over the four months. She was told that there was a business contract of RM7.8mil but the man was having problems with cash flow with the bank and that he would pay her back if she gave her the money,” Insp Nazrul said.

He added that among the suspects were those who played the part of a lawyer to further convince the woman of the validity of the situation, while others were “account mules” — people who allowed their bank accounts to be used for illegal purposes.

“This is a romance scam,” Insp Nazrul said.

Supt Firdaus pointed out that the suspects from the last six arrests came from all strata of society and he believed that others might have fallen for their scam based on the fact that they found four deposits in one day into the bank account of one of the suspects, who is a roti canai seller.

“We believe that there are other victims but they never reported to us. We hope that the public would learn something from this case. They should be careful on the Internet and don’t be so easily taken in by people they don’t know,” he said.

Supt Firdaus pointed out that from 2010 to May this year, there had been 197 cases of such scams involving RM6.8mil. They are usually called “parcel scams” as they commonly involve the delivery of parcels to victims who are forced to pay huge amounts of money for their release.

He said the beautician’s case was investigated under Section 420 of the Penal Code which carries a jail sentence of one to 10 years, a fine and mandatory whipping.

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