A fraudster who duped trusting men into parting with thousands of pounds using dating site accounts has been jailed for five years.
Maria Nistor, 32, of Barton Road, Luton, had pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by false representation and was sentenced at Luton Crown
Court on Friday.
Nistor extorted money from single men who were interested in starting a relationship by feeding them lies about her financial situation, and asking for money - which she promised to return along with interest.
In one of the scenarios created by the con artist, Nistor would tell her victims she needed money to change the deeds on a property left to her by her late father in Romania, but would sell the property on for a higher value to pay them back with added profit.
Other tricks included asking for cash to pay the tax on a property gifted to her by an ex-partner, which again she would sell on to return the loan, or the equivalent with a valuable gifted car.
Nistor not only lied to themen through dating sites but in many cases met them in person to continue the con.
The five victims, who do not wish to be identified, paid sums totalling £488,000 to Nistor over a two-and-a-half-year period between April 2011 and October 2013.
Nistor was charged by Bedfordshire Police following analysis of her bank accounts, after disclosures were made by victims that she had been transferred large sums of money.
Detective Constable Suzanne Chappel, who led the case, said: “This has been a long and complex investigation in which the full extent of Nistor’s deceit was brought to light.
“This despicable behaviour has had a devastating impact on a number of victims, who have been left with financial worry and the emotional heartache of being betrayed by someone they thought they could trust.
“I am pleased that Nistor has been jailed for her actions and hope this sentence serves as a deterrent to anyone tempted to commit fraud of any kind using internet technology.
“Bedfordshire Police now has a dedicated Cyber Hub with teams specialising in digital forensic investigation. All online criminal activity leaves a footprint and we are committed to tracking down offenders and bringing them to justice.”
Nistor will also face a confiscation hearing to reclaim the gains made by criminal activity.
Protect yourself from fraud online
- Not everyone online is who they say they are and it’s easy for people to hide their real intentions, so only speak to people you know in real life.
- Never transfer money or share bank details, PINs and passwords with people you don’t know and trust.
- If someone you are speaking to online makes you feel uncomfortable, or you witness any suspicious behaviour, contact police.
- Think twice before you post online – once something has been shared in the digital world it is almost impossible to completely remove it. Often intimate images can be used as blackmail so never send anything you would not be comfortable sharing with a wider audience.
- If you feel you have been a victim of fraud online, break off all contact, do not send any more money, report the fraudster to the website or chat room operator and call police on 101.