An Indian-origin so-called “romance fraudster”, who would trick victims he met through online dating sites to invest in a fake business, was sentenced to four years and four months of imprisonment for nine charges of fraud by a UK court on Thursday.
Vimal Popat, 41, from Slough in south-east England, appeared at Harrow Crown Court in London for sentencing, having previously pleaded guilty for each count of fraud by false representation causing all-round losses of over 440,000 pounds.
The court heard that Popat’s victims were mainly, but not exclusively, women, most of whom he had met using dating sites such as Bumble.
“This was a selfish and callous crime that parted trusting decent people from their savings,” said Metropolitan Police Detective Constable Chris Collins.
“So often victims of this type of offence don’t come forward, embarrassed by their own naivety, but fraudsters such as Popat work hard on their back story and are incredibly convincing in the telling of their tales,” he said.
“I commend the victims in this case for coming forward. Their actions have put a stop to Popat’s crimes and have no doubt spared others from falling victim to his schemes. I hope that the sentence handed down today brings them some satisfaction,” he added.
Six of the total eight victims were female, four of whom were convinced by Popat that they were in a romantic relationship. After striking up an online friendship, Popat would typically go on to form romantic relationships with his victims in person. After wooing them over a period of months and gaining their trust, he would persuade them to invest their money in a non-existent business.
In all cases, he duped his victims into believing he was a successful Forex trader and they were investing in his business with the promise of healthy profits gained through the purchase and sale of currencies, the Met Police said.
In reality, when the victim’s money was transferred into one of Popat’s bank accounts, he would use it to finance his lifestyle or gamble it away in casinos.
When chasing their money, Popat would string along his romantic victims for months using a number of excuses for being unavailable to see them, such as being in a car accident, being hospitalised, being robbed or attending a funeral.
He also created false banking documents to persuade victims that his accounts had a healthy balance and that their money was safe and being invested.
The Met Police was able to establish that his offending, which began in 2013, stopped during 2015-2016, but escalated to an extreme during 2019 when he duped four victims in a single year.
In addition to the romance-based fraud, Popat also targeted relatives, a former work colleague and a former neighbour, impressing them with his fictitious business acumen and enticing them to part with cash in exchange for empty promises of financial profit.
He took more than 300,000 pounds from a relative after tricking him into believing he was a successful currency trader at a family wedding and police believe that there may be more victims who have not yet come forward. His offences are estimated to have incurred losses of around 440,824.50 pounds, but are likely to be more.
Popat was arrested by Met Police officers from the Economic Crime Unit based at Hendon in north London in March. He was charged the following day and remanded in custody to appear at Harrow Crown Court in August, when he entered a guilty plea and was further remanded until sentencing this week.
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