She Fell For A Nigerian Internet Scammer. What She Did Next Changed His Life Forever
October 21, 2016
An internet romance scam took an unexpected turn.
A few years after her divorce, Maria Grette, 62, from Sweden, created a profile on an online dating website where she met a 58-year-old Danish man whom she would later discover was a 24-year-old Nigerian internet scammer.
Credit: Maria Grette
The two spent a lot of time writing and he even called her from a UK phone number.
"I wanted to meet him because I liked him," Maria told BBC. "He had a way and a sweetness I had never known in a man before. And he was innocent in a way that puzzled me."
After three months of communicating, the man agreed to visit her in Sweden. But before that, he and his son needed to make a quick trip to Nigeria for a job interview, he said. The next phone call was to tell her that he was in a Lagos hospital. He told her they had been mugged, his son shot, and they were without money and papers. His bank did not have a branch in Africa and requested €1000 to proceed with treatment for his son.
The plot developed after that initial transfer. Medical complications called for more money. The doctors demanded more advance fees. She began to realize it was a scam. She stopped responding to his messages.
Credit: Maria Grette
Three weeks after her silence, he called her and confessed. He told her that he was not who she thought he was.
"I said I already knew that. I asked him to tell me his true identity and he did." He was a 24-year-old Nigerian "419" scammer. He had finished university two years earlier but had no job.
He further described himself as a "devil" who had wronged "a lovely woman".
African internet 419 scammers
From this point on, their communication took a new turn. There were no further requests for cash.
Unable to get him a visa to travel to Sweden, she made up her mind to go to Nigeria.
"When I saw him at the airport in Abuja, tears fell over his face, and I knew I had known him all my life."
Maria spent two weeks in Nigeria getting to know "Johnny." She met his friends, many of whom were also scammers. One evening in a local bar, she began to wonder how she could make a difference.
An idea came to her two years later after she saw an article on a Nigerian news website about an arts exhibition. Over the past six years, Maria, who works as an art teacher and arts therapist, has arranged for a number of African artists to visit Europe for arts exhibitions, workshops, conferences and competitions. She has assisted them to source international grants and other funding to advance their work.
"Johnny has given me more than he took," she said, "Without him, I would not have met Africa."
With her assistance, Johnny left Nigeria to study in America. She continued to provide him with financial assistance until he completed his degree a few years ago and got a job in the oil sector.
They still communicate frequently, updating themselves on each other's lives; and last year, he bought one of her paintings which she shipped over to him in America.
"He is very dear to me," she said.
"He has asked me so many times to forgive him and I told him that the most important thing is to forgive himself."
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