South African police arrest eight men suspected of targeting widows in romance scams

South African police have arrested eight suspects in connection to romance scams that defrauded at least 100 women.

The gang used “sob stories” as a lure to push women — including widows and divorcees — to give them money, as reported by the BBC

Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service, and Europol, estimate that over the course of the scam, victims suffered close to $7 million in losses. 

According to Cape Town police, the suspects were arrested in an organized raid at multiple locations in the early morning of October 19. Ranging in age from 33 to 52 years old, the suspects are allegedly tied to a wider transnational organized crime syndicate in Nigeria known as the “Black Axe”. 

TimesLive reports that Black Axe has been operating romance scams since 2011.

“It is alleged that these suspects, allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees who were led to believe that they were in a genuine romantic relationship but were scammed out of their hard-earned money,” local police claim. “The suspects used social media websites, online dating websites to find and connect with their victims.”

The sob stories employed by the suspects included a

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