Photo/IllutrationThe woman who was conned in Hiroshima Prefecture thought she was corresponding with one of these U.S. solders. (Provided by Hiroshima prefectural police)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HIROSHIMA--A woman in her 50s looking for love put so much trust in her online paramour that she "lent" him millions of yen. She never heard from him again.

What started out as fairy-tale courtship from a foreign land proved to be a nightmare for the woman, who parted with 9.15 million yen ($83,330) for a nonexistent diamond her new-found love intimated would make her richer.

Everything the man wrote to her was a lie, including the statement, "You are my sunshine.”

This passionate text message came from an individual purporting to be a U.S. service member deployed in the Middle East. He declared his love toward the woman and showered her with sweet words every day.

Hiroshima prefectural police on Feb. 4 arrested two suspects living in Tokyo for allegedly swindling the woman.

They were identified as Nishino Czariniah Alaba, 41, a Filipina living in Higashi-Kurume, and Innocent Obi Ebuka, 35, a Nigerian man, who resides in Higashi-Murayama.

Police believe the imposters have been involved in similar setups and reaped tens of millions of yen in such fraudulent activity, commonly known as “international romance” scams.

According to the police, the woman in Hiroshima Prefecture hooked up with the man through a dating app last May.

He identified himself as a Caucasian serving in the U.S. armed forces, and said he was deployed in war zones in the Middle East.

They started exchanging e-mails and chatting via the Line messaging app almost daily. He wrote in English and she wrote in Japanese, and both used a translation tool to make sense of the exchanges.

He sent her numerous pictures, including one of him in the desert during military maneuvers, and even a copy of a page from a U.S. passport with personal information. He never forgot to add tender words of love.

Two months into the long-distance courtship, she got the surprise of her life.

“I've got a diamond, a trophy of war. It’s worth 1 billion yen,” he wrote.

The text message went on to state that developments in the war zone were shifting quickly.

“I’m moving from Iraq to Syria. It’s so dangerous that I want to entrust the diamond to you.”

In August, he arranged to allegedly ship the diamond to Japan via an international courier service, and asked the woman to cover the charges for customs clearance.

In the message, he promised her there was nothing to worry about because he would arrive in Japan later that month.

“I will sell the diamond and pay you back with 40 percent interest added on,” he said.

Trusting him explicitly, the woman wired 1.45 million yen to a bank account that he designated and also met an intermediary in Hiroshima to hand over a further 5 million yen between early August and early September. Later, she wired an additional 2.7 million yen to another bank account.

She never got another message from him. She was conned, pure and simple.

Hiroshima prefectural police said the two suspects, with at least one co-conspirator, tricked her into believing that the diamond somehow ended up being examined by customs officers in China, and the funds were urgently needed to prove that it was not an illegal source of funding.

On Jan. 22, officers from the Fukuoka and Saitama prefectural police jointly arrested three Nigerians and one Cameroonian on a charge of swindling 8.8 million yen through similar scams.

The group used a false identity—sometimes a U.S. serviceman, other times a member of U.N. forces, a Syrian doctor or an American woman—to swindle money from Japanese men and women who posted messages on Facebook and other social networking services. In each case, a victim was tricked into believing that a foreign person was romantically interested in him or her.

Hiroshima prefectural police are investigating if the deceived woman is simply just another victim of the group's activities.

Kimiaki Nishida, a professor of social psychology at Rissho University, noted there is a growing trend for people to turn to social networking services to look for a foreign national either as an English conversation partner or to develop a romantic interest.

“They tend to think that the other person feels the same way as they do," he said. "It's understandable that they harbor a desire to return the same warm feelings. But once money comes up in conversation, be suspicious.”