Sugar baby conned out of thousands by man pretending to earn £50m a year
What makes a perfect relationship? A well-established balance of love and trust? A mutual understanding of each other's goals and ideals? A shared passion for watching movie marathons while dressed in onesies and eating copious amounts of junk food?
Or is it, quite simply, money?
21-year-old Anna Ryan, from Bedfordshire in the UK, seemed to think so. At the age of 18, she decided that she wanted nothing more in life than a rich man who would act as her sugar daddy, so she signed up to a dating site that specifically catered to young women looking for older, wealthier guys.
Unfortunately, it didn't quite go to plan.
When she first made her account on the dating site, Ryan was contacted almost immediately by a man who called himself James Walsh. He claimed to be a Stock Trader from Kensington, UK and said he earned over £50million ($71million) a year.
Ryan didn't feel guilty about talking to Walsh and had made it clear from the beginning that she was looking for a relationship that would benefit her financially as well as emotionally. To her, Walsh seemed like exactly the type of guy she was looking for.
"We chatted for seven months, spending hours on the phone," the young woman explained. "I was pleased to find James was as funny and charming as he was successful, his soft Chelsea accent making me blush."
She went on to say that he "sent [her] pictures of his Lamborghini and told [her] about a gold mining station that he owned which earnt him extra money." She was, in her words, "smitten".
However, when they eventually found time to meet, Walsh didn't appear to be the flashy millionaire he had assured Ryan he was. Instead of turning up in his Lamborgini, the so-called banker turned up on the train and even requested that Ryan pick him up from the station.
But, with a suit, a gold Rolex and an excuse that his car was in the garage for repairs, Walsh managed to convince Ryan that he was the man he said he was. He proceeded to take her out for dinner, which he paid for in cash.
"Our date was occasionally interrupted by work phone calls from clients," Ryan said, "but I didn’t mind as I listened in awe to him discussing work."
After that, the pair parted ways and Ryan found herself eager to see him again.
"James and I carried on chatting daily, and I couldn’t wait to see him again. When he suggested meeting that weekend, a thrill ran through me.
"We met for another lovely dinner, and after a night of wining and dining, I was excited when he said he was falling for me and wanted to see me again."
But then it all went downhill.
On their second date, Walsh told Ryan everything she wanted to hear; he called her his girlfriend, told her he'd made room for her stuff at his home in Chelsea and promised her he'd take her on holiday to Dubai. But, he then made one request of her that she wasn't expecting: he needed £5,000.
According to Ryan:
"One of [James'] members of staff had been negligent with his trading for the company, and he now had to pay a fine of £5,000 ($7,000) to bail him out. However, because it was James’ company that was in trouble, the banks had frozen his accounts and he couldn’t pay the fine.
"He even joked that this would be the last time I would see him as he could go to prison if he didn’t pay the fine."
His behavior suddenly changed. He was aggressive and threatening. His well-spoken accent disappeared, and in its place was a gruff, Mancunian growl. Out of fear and desperation, Ryan paid the fine.
"I checked my balance and felt sick as I saw all of my savings were gone," she said.
"Later, James messaged me acting like everything was normal, apologizing for scaring me and promising to pay me back. He invited me out for dinner, saying he’d pick me up in a Ferrari to show everything was fine, but all my trust in him was gone.
"That night I searched his number on the Internet, and my heart dropped. He wasn’t ‘James Walsh’ at all."
She found a forum of other people who had been scammed out of their money and discovered that her supposed sugar daddy was actually a notorious conman called David Overton.
The next day, Ryan swallowed her pride and told her mom what happened. The conman was arrested and eventually jailed after eight other women testified against him. Ryan never got her money back, but is grateful that "James Walsh" isn't free to harm anyone else.