I fell in love with Kevin online and sent him £40k. The awful truth came out when he stood me up on our first date
Di Pogson looked forward to an ‘idyllic’ future with a Ferrari-driving, international businessman she met on a dating site. The reality was devastating
By: Erin Cardiff and Alexandra Rucki
Di Pogson, 57, was left heartbroken when her husband Ian, 60, died suddenly in July, 2014.
She decided to get back on the dating scene two years later and joined a site to find a relationship in late 2016.
Di felt an instant connection to a man named Kevin Thompson – a fellow widower, aged in his fifties and based in London.
Attentive and charismatic, he wowed her with tales of business trips in China, holidays in Italy and drives in his Ferrari.
When Kevin said he needed money Di found it hard to say no. By the time she found out she’d been lied to, she had sent him £40,000.
Now, after a police investigation unravelled a ‘cruel’ conspiracy that targeted women on dating sites, Di has spoken of her ordeal in a bid to warn others about online lonely hearts scams.
“He led me to believe we’d be together and have this idyllic life”, Di said. “We’d talk on the phone and he’d say he loved hearing my voice, and would ask when my birthday was, so he could send a present.
“He even sent me flowers – some red roses – and would tell me he was going to get me a diamond ring.
“He said he loved me, and I said it back. Now, I don’t think I did, but at the time, I genuinely believed I could.”
Di, of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, was still grieving when she first started online dating in October 2016. She had been approaching her 30th wedding anniversary when her husband Ian suddenly became unwell, developing difficulty walking.
He was taken to hospital and given a CT scan, which initially appeared fine, only for him to rapidly decline just hours later.
“He had the scan, and I saw him that evening”, Di said. “I left the hospital at about 7pm on July 22 and he seemed relatively fine.
“Then, my phone rang when I was back home at about 9pm. It was someone from the hospital telling me to come back.
“By the time I got there, Ian was dead. He’d died of an undetected embolism, which is when the arteries get blocked by something like a blood clot or air bubble.”
By the time she met Kevin on the internet, Di was longing for companionship.
“He wasn’t what I’d call drop dead gorgeous, but he seemed like a nice, normal guy,” she said.
“He told me he had a daughter, and that he had also been widowed when his wife died very suddenly.”
After a couple of weeks of talking, Di received a message from Kevin, claiming to have an emergency with his pet dog.
“He said he was stuck abroad and that his card wouldn’t work, but needed £450 for an emergency vet’s bill, as his dog was very sick”, she said.
“I’m an animal lover myself, and he made me feel so guilty. In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Would a vet really demand money up front like that?’
“But he was so convincing, and every question I had, he came up with a plausible answer.”
That was just the first of a string of requests, with reasons ranging from having to pay taxes relating to his business or problems with a blocked card.
The picture Kevin painted of his glamorous life made it seem as if a few thousand pounds meant nothing to him – which meant Di found it even harder to say no.
“He’d talk about his flash lifestyle, how he had a Ferrari and spent summers in Italy. He told me it was degrading that he even had to ask for money,” she said.
“He even said he had written me a cheque for £60,000, which is more than I lent him, to thank me.”
As the requests for money continued, Di began to feel like the pair really were in a trusting relationship.
And, in December 2016, she traveled to London to finally meet him in person. They planned to meet at a hotel near Marble Arch.
“He seemed really excited to meet me”, Di recalls. “He’d apparently been to China on business, and was flying in that day. He even asked me to meet him at the airport, so we’d have longer together.
“In the end, we agreed to meet at my hotel. I sat in the foyer, waiting and waiting, but he never came.
“It was horrendous, I felt like such an idiot. Eventually, I lost my temper and left an angry voicemail.
“I didn’t hear back until the next morning. He said he’d been on a delayed flight then fallen asleep at home, but had to go straight back to China as something had gone wrong.
“He even turned the voicemail back on me, calling me heartless and saying he couldn’t believe I would speak to him like that.”
Di then asked if she could at least meet him to get the cheque he had promised, but yet again, he had an answer, claiming he was already back at the airport and didn’t have it with him to post.
By this point, she knew something was wrong.
What’s more, she was in financial dire straits, having given him a staggering £40,000 – most of which came from a loan she had taken out to help him.
Shortly after Di was stood up at the hotel, Kevin tried one more time to get money out of her, telling her he was stuck abroad yet again, and wouldn’t be able to get home for Christmas.
“He said his daughter would be alone, and that I was abandoning him to spend Christmas by himself.
“By then, I knew something was wrong anyway – but there was also no money left to give. I couldn’t have helped him if I’d wanted to.”
As s soon as Di told Kevin she didn’t have a penny more to give him, he disappeared, never to message her again.
Out of pocket and upset, Di finally reported him to police.
Officers combed through messages and looked into the details ‘Kevin’ had provided Di with about his life. They learnt not only that the address he had given her was false, but that the Kevin Thompson Di had come to know didn’t actually exist.
In fact there were three people behind the profile – lonely hearts fraudsters Yaw Sarpong, 22, Nicholas Adade, 23 and Eric Ocansey, 35 – working alongside money launderers Obed Addo, 37, and Daniel Keh, 25.
On top of this, there was another victim, a woman who had been conned out of £200,000.
“For a long time, I felt so stupid”, Di said. “I’m a grown woman – how on earth had I been conned like this?
“People may read this and think it would never happen to them, but until you’ve been in this situation, you don’t know.
“’Kevin’ truly led me to believe that he loved me, that we’d be together. I was in a vulnerable state then, having lost Ian, and I wanted and needed to be loved.
“Whenever I did start asking questions, he would turn it round on me and make me feel guilty. It was incredibly manipulative.
“I can’t go back and undo anything though, and I refuse to let this eat me up, or they win all over again. Now, I just want to help other people and to warn them to be wary online.”
Finally, in July 2019, the gang appeared at Guildford Crown Court to answer for their crimes.
There, a jury found Yaw Sarpong, of Hampshire, guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and he was jailed for 15 months.
His associates Nicholas Adade Adu, of Stoke on Trent, and Eric Ocansey, of Birmingham, pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Adu was jailed for three years and seven months, while Ocansey was jailed for two years – both also receiving 14 months for money laundering, to run concurrently.
Obed Addo, from Roehampton, was jailed for 21 months for money laundering, while Daniel Keh, of Enfield, north west London, was jailed for 18 months for converting criminal property and supplying articles to be used in fraud, plus six months for money laundering, to run concurrently. A sixth defendant, a woman, will face sentence on September 6.
Now, Di is looking ahead to rebuilding her life, and is happily in a new relationship after meeting her current partner, who she does not wish to name, 18 months ago online.
“I was wary to get back online, but I now know that if somebody is making excuses and putting off meeting you in person, it’s not right”, she said. “Either they are messing you around – or something more.
“I can’t thank the police enough for their support. They’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring these people to justice.
“To anybody else out there with a suspicion, I would say report it – police can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on.
“Seeing the gang who did this in court was difficult, but I am refusing to let them win.
“Life is too short. Yes, I may not have the money I would have, but I’m getting by – and I’m happy, which is something you can’t buy.
“It is important to be wary on the internet, and absolutely don’t give anybody money, but there are happy stories too.
“I am in a great place with my partner now. After all these frogs, I have finally found my prince.”
Detective Constable Rebecca Mason of Surrey Police’s Economic Crime Unit said:
“This type of crime plays mercilessly on personal emotions. These women have gone from the high excitement of being in love to the extreme low of realising they have been victims of crime and their trust and generosity has been completely abused.
“I can’t emphasise enough, having got to know them throughout this case, that these are both intelligent, sensible women who were taken advantage of by a cunning, cruel, and highly manipulative gang of fraudsters.
“It is thanks to these women that these criminals are now behind bars and cannot hurt other people. But, if we can do one more positive thing, it is to spread the word on their behalf about how to stay safe when dating online.
“They don’t want anyone else to be left as financially and emotionally devastated as they have been.”
June 26, 2020