Police arrested a 60-year-old Nicosia man Sunday evening on fraud charges in connection with an advance-fee scam, following a complaint filed by a 63-year-old teacher who says she was duped into wiring a total of €117,000.
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Paphos police officers apprehended the suspect on Sunday at 8pm, following an investigation involving a number of bank accounts where it appeared that the woman had wired money to him on false pretenses.
The unknown caller contacted the woman telling her he was detained at Ercan airport in north Nicosia and officials wouldn’t let him go unless he paid €57,000
According to CNA News Agency, the retired teacher met the suspect on social media through Facebook, where two years ago he told her that he was a medical doctor with the UN and was serving in Syria.
In February 2018, according to the complaint, the suspect told the woman that he feared for his life in the war-stricken country. He then informed her that he would send someone to the island with a pile of cash so that the she would deposit the money into a Cypriot bank account. The woman explained to investigators that the man wanted her to send the money to his children in England “in case something happened” to him.
Two months later the teacher received a phone call from an unknown male, according to the woman’s statements, who told her he was on his way to Cyprus on instructions by a friend in order to deliver the money.
But a few days later, the same caller contacted the woman telling her he was detained at Ercan airport in north Nicosia and officials wouldn’t let him go unless he paid €57,000. He then asked her to wire the amount.
The teacher called her Facebook friend to confirm, with him telling her “it’s okay” and to go ahead and wire the money, promising he would pay her back.
The woman went ahead and wired €57,000 to the unknown caller and later sent another €60,000 for other reasons, according to the complaint. When the woman got wind of the scam and realised she was duped into losing her money, she called the police.
Suspect denies knowing the victim
The Paphos District Court on Monday ordered the suspect to be remanded in custody for seven days, while he denies knowing the woman. He reportedly told investigators someone else would deposit money into his account with the understanding the suspect would hand it back when needed.
Police said they are searching for three other individuals, one male who was named by the suspect and two females named by the victim, who said she deposited money into their bank accounts.