Life savings lost and found guilty of money laundering
Woman conned by web ‘romance’ with Ghana gold scammer
A WOMAN from Uxbridge who fell for an online romance scam is facing “financial ruin and extensive, long term debt” following a conviction for money laundering.
Sherroll Foster spent her life savings, used payday loans firms, and ran up an overdraft and credit card debt while being fleeced by a man she had met online known as ‘Mark Hamilton’.
She lost £65,000 over two years after he promised they would be together if she could provide funds to allow him to release gold deposits from a bank in Ghana worth £4 million.
But she then allowed her bank account to be used to receive money sent by other scam victims, which she then forwarded on to Ghana.
The 65-year-old from Hillingdon Hill, said she believed the other victims were friends of ‘Hamilton’, but pleaded guilty to a single charge of money laundering, before she was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on Monday August 15. Two counts of money laundering will lie on file.
The court was told Foster had lost more than £65,000 over the space of two years in the scam, which police believe may have been run by a gang posing as ‘Hamilton’.
Foster had met the fraudsters through a dating website in 2012 and began an online relationship with ‘Hamilton’.
He claimed to be a businessman who, once he had claimed his fortune, would come for Foster so they could spend their retirement together in luxury.
She first started sending money to Ghana through a money transfer site in February 2013 and over the course of the next 12 months parted with her life savings and any additional money that she could spare from her income, before then turning to payday loans and overdrafts.
During this time Hamilton continued with the charade that just one more payment would settle his affairs and allow them to finally meet.
Over the course of 24 months, she sent more than £65,000 of her own money to what she believed to be her ‘ soul mate’ in Ghana.
Some months later Foster was roped into the money laundering. The gang had approached various other potential victims, mostly women in their 60s, and spun the same tale about the gold in Ghana.
Concerned about sending their money abroad, these new victims instead agreed to send funds to Foster’s UK bank account, having been told she was Hamilton’s mother.
In April 2014, the first victim began sending money to Foster, which she forwarded to Ghana via international money transfer without question the next day.
In June that year the second victim began sending money to Foster who again forwarded the money.
Foster later told police she believed Hamilton’s claims that they were friends of his also helping him to free investment.
In total, one victim sent £8,000 to Foster’s bank account and another sent £19,000. Eventually both victims sensed something was wrong and contacted Action Fraud.
Foster was arrested on February 10, 2015 and up his told police she had continued to send money because she “wanted to believe” that Hamilton was genuine.
When she was released on bail she continued her online relationship with Hamilton and sent more of her own money to Ghana.
In March 2015, despite being on bail on suspicion of money laundering, another victim of the romance scam paid money into Foster’s account totalling £3,500 which she passed on to Ghana.
When she returned on bail on August 11 2015 she was arrested on an additional count of money laundering.
At court she was told to repay £3,500 but avoided a custodial sentence as she had been on bail for a year and lost her life savings.
Detective Constable Mark Cresswell of the Met’s Operation FALCON said: “These fraudsters target vulnerable people and exploit them not only financially, but emotionally, making their victims believe that true happiness is almost within reach and just a bank transfer away.
“Sherroll Foster was looking forward to a comfortable retirement prior to becoming involved with this scam. She now faces financial ruin and extensive, long term debt.”
These fraudsters target vulnerable people and exploit them not only financially but emotionally”
n DUPED: Sherroll Foster sent borrowed money and her own savings – and those of other victims – from her bank account to Ghana