A British business woman who planned retiring into a new life with her new found internet lover has been defrauded of $100,000.
Mary Little had transferred part of her life-long savings to her supposed lover, Frederick Stalke, a retiring American Colonel, for him to prepare his New York house as part of plans for Little to move in.
It turned out the money went into a cedi account at reputable bank in Accra and with the help of an employee of the bank, the amount was withdrawn in three tranches by the fraudsters.
Little told Joy FM’s Super Morning Show host Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah on Wednesday she had built a relationship with Stalke for over seven months, via phone, camcorders and text messages after she first met him on a dating site, Match.com.
She was supposed to meet him for the first time in New York on September 19, 2009 and possibly start a new future together and that was the beginning of her painful revelation.
Stalke, she narrated claimed he was part of the soldiers withdrawn by the US government from Baghdad and was to take care of some properties wrongly shipped to Accra and would return to US in two weeks.
Whilst in Accra, Stalk allegedly got into some problems with the police and needed part of the amount to resolve the issues and invest the remaining in the property in the US as agreed by the two of them. He requested that the money be paid to his lawyer who was litigating the case for him.
“I had no reason to suspect this guy didn’t exist,” she said. “The money actually didn’t go into a dollar account; the lawyer was fake. The account holder was fake; the money actually went into a local currency account and this reputable bank did not follow its protocol,” she lamented.
According to Mary Little, she called the Modern Hotel in Achimota, Accra where Frederick Stalk was supposed to have been staying for the two weeks only to be told he had been beaten up and taken to hospital. Later she learnt he had checked out from the hotel and has since not made any contacts to her.
Mary Little said she is taking legal action against the bank for not doing enough due-diligence before the money was withdrawn.
According to her, she cross-checked from the Fraud Department of the UK Bank who confirmed the existence of the account in Ghana before she paid in the money.
She wondered how the Branch manager in Accra did not suspect how an 18 months old account owned by a trader could receive such a hefty amount, the first of its kind, without following the necessary banking procedures before releasing the amount.
Five persons, the account holder, an employee of the bank and three others including a woman have been arrested by the police. They are currently being prosecuted at an Accra High Court.
There is no trace, at least not yet of Frederick Stalke. It is still not clear if he was party to this sophisticated scam, or was impersonated. Mary Little cannot also confirm if Stalk was indeed part of the US Army.
Narrating how the whole scam was uncovered, Little said she vowed not to go the way of many such victims who committed suicide after going through such ordeals.
She therefore had to liaise with the UK Fraud Department where she was told to be on the alert, that fraudsters are always selfish and would come back for more.
According to her, a lady purporting to be the daughter of the missing Frederick Stalke contacted her after several weeks to announce the death of her lover.
She claimed to be schooling in California but had to come to Accra to find out what had happened to her father. She wanted an amount of £3,000 to take care of the search for the father.
Mary Little said she was advised by the Fraud office in UK to send the money via courier.
Together with the Ghana police the fraudsters were arrested.
Mary Little said for her entire life she has been surrounded by people who are trust worthy and only thought of scams and 419s as mere phrases.
She only reads about it the media and did not believe she will fall victim to it.