A lonely beancounter has been jailed after he fell for what appears to be a classic Nigerian email scam, and conned £150,000 out of a friend so he could bankroll his fake damsel in distress.
Brian Ridpath, of Willesborough, Kent, England, was fooled into believing the story of Lisa Johnson, who emailed him X-rated snaps and asked for emergency funds. Johnson – or, far more likely, someone pretending to be the young woman – at one point claimed Nigeria's corrupt regime had seized her passport. She also begged the single 79-year-old chartered accountant for money to escape her situation.
As his local paper put it rather bluntly, the mystery woman "used her sex appeal" to dupe Ridpath.
Over the next couple of months, the accountant hoodwinked a pal – who was also one of his own clients – by lying that he met Johnson during a trip to Liverpool, and that the woman was a sewing machine importer in Nigeria and a business associate. Ridpath asked his friend of 10 years to lend him £30,000 so he could give her the money so she could pay import taxes while she awaited $640,000 from a deal in China. Ridpath said the loan would be repaid.
However, at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday, a glum Ridpath sheepishly admitted he had never met Johnson except online. He was found guilty of fraud by misrepresentation – for deceiving his friend by lying about his relationship with Johnson – and was jailed for 18 months.
After borrowing that initial 30 grand back in November last year, the accountant next asked for £90,000 and then a top up of £30,000, all for Johnson. When he asked for another £35,000, Ridpath's friend drew the line – and called the police when the accountant refused to pay back the money.
While officers investigated, Ridpath continued to wire cash to Johnson, the court heard, and tried to sell his own home to raise more funds until he was stopped by an injunction. The court was also told that Ridpath did not benefit from the deception – the money was gone.
Ridpath insisted to the cops that Johnson was the real deal, and according to his lawyer, the now-penniless accountant still believes that. After searching the pensioner's home and offices in May, officers found "sexual pictures" of a woman from Johnson on his computers. The prosecution said these snaps "showed her to have been more than just a business partner," whereas Ridpath painted her as a business associate to his money-lending friend.
Described as a "church-going and well-respected professional", Ridpath has now "lost his good reputation, his friend, his home – and now his freedom," the Kentish Express notes.
Detective Constable Geoffrey Kirya said on Monday: "The defendant denied any wrongdoing throughout the investigation. It was a long and thorough investigation which involved trawling through thousands of emails.
"We eventually found the evidence that proved that the defendant lied to the victim that he knew the person in Nigeria.
"I am pleased with the outcome which serves as a warning that crime does not pay. It should also serve as a warning to others that fraudsters come in all forms including people in position of trust." ®