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8 dating scam conmen defraud $7 million from more than 100 women

Eight Nigerian men accused of an internet dating scam have been charged in a South African court after a massive international operation involving the FBI and Interpol.

Authorities in the US, where the investigation originated and most of the alleged victims are based, have applied for their extradition.

They are accused of defrauding more than 100 victims of almost $7 million in total over the past decade.




It is the biggest such bust in South Africa, according to police spokeswoman Col Katlego Mogale.

The suspects, aged between 33 and 52, were arrested in Cape Town on Tuesday following a legal assistance request from the US.

It is believed the FBI and US Secret Service led the investigation and worked with South African authorities, including the elite police unit, the Hawks.



The men are wanted in Texas and New Jersey for a variety of offences, including conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, money-laundering and aggravated identity theft.

The prosecutor Robin Lewis alleged the men are members of the Black Axe, a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria, whose specialities include laundering money through various accounts.

The state argued the men were a flight risk because they still have access to accounts allegedly used. The suspects face 20 years in jail if convicted.

PREYED ON WIDOWS AND DIVORCEES

It is alleged they preyed on their victims through dating sites using false identities. The victims, often vulnerable widows or divorcees from around the world, thought they were in genuine romantic relationships.

Col Mogale said once the suspects had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly made-up sob-stories about why they needed money such as taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc and then siphoned money from victims”.

“The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared,” she said.