‘Concerning twist’ in online scam
A MAN pretending to be an American soldier has allegedly scammed a Brisbane woman out of $305,000 in an online romance scam with a "concerning twist".
The pair, both in their 30s, met on social media last October and started an online relationship that resulted in her wiring him more than $200,000.
Over the next few months, Cosmos Emeh, 32, groomed the 34-year-old victim into believing the stories provided by the criminal, police allege. According to police, he claimed to be deployed in Syria, but was actually living in Brisbane on a student visa with his Australian partner.
Emeh, also from Brisbane, later went to her house to take another $105,000, claiming he was a fixer for the soldier.
The woman became suspicious and went to police who caught Emeh in a sting - involving the proposed handover of more money - on Thursday.
He has since been charged him with one count each of fraud and attempted fraud.
Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence of the State Crime Command's Financial and Cyber Crime Group said online scams were "becoming far too frequent" but that it was "what came next that caused (them) concern".
"The concerning twist is that the offender (and clearly not the US soldier in the images) travelled to the victim's home to obtain more money, this time over $105,000," Supt Lawrence said.
"The victim became suspicious and after confiding in a close friend, she reported the matter to police.
"Yesterday detectives conducted a tactical operation which lead to the interception and arrest of the offender while he was attempting to induce the victim to hand over more money.
"Detectives executed search warrants at a Durack address and located a number of items used in the commission of these crimes."
Investigations are continuing and the 34-year-old victim declined to comment on the matter when contacted through police by news.com.au.
"I would characterise this victim as a well-educated young person who has entered into an online relationship based on what she was told," police investigator Vince Byrnes told reporters on Friday.
"It's very uncommon in Australia or anywhere around the world to have an offender involved in this type of scam physically present themself for the collection of money."
Queensland Police have issued an urgent warning to the public after discovering what they've described as "a disturbing development in romance and online scams".
Supt Lawrence said the US Army Criminal Investigation Command receives hundreds of complaints a month from people who find themselves involved in an online relationship with someone purporting to be a soldier.
"This is a common scam worldwide," Supt Lawrence said.
"Usually the offender's interaction with the victim is all online so this further step of travelling to the victim's home is certainly something we need the public to hear and be warned of today.
"I encourage anyone using social media platforms to develop friendships or relationships online to maintain control at all times.
"I know emotions may make that harder but arm yourself with the knowledge that these scams are occurring to everyday members of the community like you.
"Take the time to evaluate the relationship, talk to friends and other loved ones about your new relationship online. We are thankful the victim in this instance took this step."
Emeh appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court today where his bail application was rejected on the grounds he was a risk of reoffending and failing to appear in court.
Through his defence lawyer, he denied having any contact with the woman prior to the sting but understood how the circumstances looked suspicious. A SIM card found in his possession that had been used in the scam was only sent to him a day ago, he claimed.
The matter was adjourned to February 11.
If you have information call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or report scams here.
- With AAP