Dating site conman convicted and sentenced - Stevenage


A conman, who posed as a suitor to trick a single nurse, who was looking for love and marriage, out of thousands of pounds, was sentenced to 2 years in jail today, Thursday, 16 July 2015.

Married Rajesh Sharma, from Stevenage, signed up to the popular Indian match-making site while his wife was away visiting relatives in India. His profile was seen by Shelly Sharma (no relation) a paediatric nurse based in Dublin for the past 8 years. Even though they had never met face to face he exploited her emotional vulnerability and persuaded her to hand over £6,000 over a 3-month period. She finally contacted the police when he asked for a further £20,000.

Rajesh Sharma, aged 36, of Mobbsbury Way, Stevenage, did not attend his trial at St Albans Crown Court and was convicted in his absence of three counts of fraud and one of possessing false identity documents. He has been named on Hertfordshire police's website as a 'wanted man.'

The jury heard he posed as a single, production engineer with a masters degree when he signed up to

Giving evidence, Shelly Sharma, who is in her late 20s, said she selected Rajesh Sharma's profile as an appropriate match and they began to communicate by email and over Skype. She told the jury she joined the web site in 2011. "It is a matrimonial website used mostly by Indians. You go on it to find a match."

Asked what she was looking for she said: "A nice decent person to marry, with my parents' consent. I hoped the person had qualifications and looked nice."

Ms Sharma, who is a Hindu, said it was also important that her horoscopes and that of any potential partner matched. In November 2013 she was in contact with Sharma, who shared her surname, was of the same caste and had a matching horoscope. She went on: "He said he was single. He had a masters in engineering and was a production engineer. He told me he had 3 or 4 houses in London and said he had been in the UK for 7 or 8 years."

The nurse, who has an MSc and is saving up to do a doctorate, said Rajesh Sharma talked to her father in India. "He impressed my dad and he doesn't get impressed by anyone," she said.

Sharma told her he was happy to be a vegetarian and that he didn't smoke and rarely drank. He said he would be happy to meet her family. In January last year he told her he had to go to India but had not been paid for a job and needed cash to pay his employees. He asked her for £4,000, saying he would pay her back. She transferred the money from her Allied Irish Bank account to his Barclays account in the UK. "He said he was looking for help and to trust him," she said.

The jury was told that he had stayed in Stevenage, did not go to India, and transferred £3,000 of the nurse's money to his wife's account. Ms Sharma did not hear from him for over a month, but he eventually contacted her on Valentine's Day, saying he had been involved in an accident, breaking an arm and a leg. She went on: "He said he had a terrible accident in India and had received multiple fractures. I just believed him."

He told her he had returned to England for treatment and she sent him flowers to Mayfield Court in Bushey, Herts a former address of his where he said he was recovering.

On 27 February he called her, saying he needed £2,000 to pay for a carer. He told her his Barclays account was frozen and asked her to send the cash by Western Union. He collected it from Cash Converters in Stevenage, saying he would repay her in a week. "I believed him. He was not well and he needed someone to help him," she said. But after she did not hear from him again she became suspicious. Then on 3 March he called her again saying he needed £20,000 as a home he owned in Sandy, Bedfordshire was about to be seized. "He said:'Tell your dad to phone me and he can send it from India - just make a direct payment to Western Union' I thought he was playing with me," she said.

On 8 March last year she asked for her money back. He told her he was returning the money, but never did. He sent her a copy of a passport to persuade her that he was genuine and a 'nice man,' but she went to the police and wrote to his bank. When the passport was examined it turned out to be fake.

Prosecutor Will Noble told the jury: "It was a cruel and heartless scam where a married man preyed on a single woman looking for love. He manipulated her vulnerability for financial gain." He said: "She was deliberately targeted. There was a degree of vulnerability. Mr Sharma knew which buttons to press. He tugged at her heartstrings saying he needed the £4,000 to go to India to speak to her father. Given her profession, he sought help after an accident."

Under cross examination by Sean Smith, Ms Sharma admitted that she had not discussed the two payments she had made to Rajesh Sharma with her father. "No that was a mistake. I did trust him." she said.

Mr Smith said he accepted the fraud could only have worked on a vulnerable victim, but he said he was not sophisticated and that the £20,000 was never handed over. Ms Sharma had the money refunded by her bank, the court was told.

Passing sentence, Recorder Jonathan Lee QC said: "He found a victim on a marriage matchmaking site who he befriended. He made her believe marriage was a prospect and used her emotional vulnerability to make untrue representations to persuade her to part with money. The victim has lost her trust of people and has been caused considerable distress."

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