Two men have been handed sentences this week after conning a pair of women out of a large sum of money in a cruel instance of romance fraud.

Harrison Ojobor, 44, and his accomplice Khalid Rajah, 73, were handed their sentences after deceiving two women, one from Durham, out of a total of more than £200,000 in a case of romance fraud.

Across the country, nearly £92 million has been lost by victims to this type of fraud which involves con artists striking up relationships with their victims before scamming them out of money.

The duo were found to be operating across the country in 2017 targeting vulnerable women for their scams, and had found their victims through Facebook.

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The Northern Echo:

Making use of a false persona, a lonely American widower named 'Scott' who was looking to find love again, the women were convinced they were in a relationship and had a future together.

Following this, Scott would then ask the women for money to help with his financial situation in a manipulative and coercive scheme used by the fraudsters.

The women agreed to help in the belief that she would be repaid the money, and were put in contact with Ojobor, 'Scott's' diplomatic representative who would then carry out the scam.

The women lost more than £200,000 before realising they had been duped and reporting it to police and Action Fraud.

Following an investigation and months of enquiries, Officers from the NEROCU identified a number of suspects and arrested Ojobor and Rajah.

On Monday, they appeared before Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing after both previously plead guilty to the charges.

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Ojobor was sentenced to five years and ten months behind bars while Rajah was given a 24 month sentence suspended for two years.

Following this, Detective Constable Ray Stephenson, from NEROCU’s High Harm Investigation Team, said: “This has been a great result against the main perpetrator, from a very long and complex investigation targeting individuals from outside our region.

“These men thought they could prey on vulnerable and kind women who they hoped would be too scared or embarrassed to report it – but they were wrong.”

“The victims have been incredibly brave throughout the investigation, and I want to thank them for speaking up – by reporting what happened to them they can help prevent it happening to others.

“These types of criminals are incredibly manipulative and sophisticated in how they operate. They use fake names and create false identities to prey on vulnerable people looking for friendships or romantic partners.

“Remember to never give out money to people you’ve met online and if you think you have been a victim of romance fraud, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed - you are not alone.”

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Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Shaun Fordy said: “Under Operation Sentinel, we will continue to identify criminals such as these, we will robustly pursue them, and we will bring them before the Courts.”

If you fear you have been victim of a scam or fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

For more information on how to stay safe against fraud, visit here.