Brit woman conned out of £160k after agreeing to marry Paul Hollywood lookalike

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A British woman was conned out of £160,000 after falling in love with a man she thought was a “better looking” version of Paul Hollywood.

Lesley Poole spoke to the catfish for three years and even bought a purple diamanté gown after he proposed and sent a ring in the post.

But the romance scammer broke her heart and her purse strings after she gave up ownership of her home to keep sending him money.

The 65-year-old, from Hainault, Essex, is now living month to month and can’t even afford a holiday after splashing her life savings on a total stranger.

She told the Daily Star: “I’d love to go on TV and hold up the ring and say this piece of s*** cost me 160 grand.

“Being catfished left me devastated and it absolutely broke my heart."

She added: “I have a lot of health issues because I broke my back and can’t walk very far. After the con I thought ‘oh my god I have no future and no life’.

“Instead of drinking my usual one or two glasses of wine a night I was drinking a bottle and a half.”

Lesley hadn’t been in a relationship for 25 years and was living alone when a man called Frank messaged her on Facebook three years ago.

The ex-registrar soon started chatting to him every single day.

Frank told her he was Italian but was living in New York as a marine engineer.

Suddenly, she wasn’t feeling so lonely.

She said: “I didn’t think anything would come of it. I just saw it as having another friend., someone to talk to late at night when you’re bored but it turned into a romance.”

Frank started getting flirty with Lesley and seduced her with his soothing voice over the phone.

He claimed video calls didn’t work on his device but he sent snaps of himself instead.

And Lesley enjoyed what she saw.

She said: “He reminded me of Paul Hollywood. A really good looking version without the blobby nose.”

Just four months into the relationship, Frank proposed to her.

He even sent a silver engagement ring in the post – but instead of a diamond there was a shell.

The shell was a link to his job as a marine engineer and he said it was to remind her of him.

Agreeing to the proposal, Lesley said: “I was all for it and I said yes and I even bought an evening dress in a charity shop for the wedding.

“I was thinking what my life was going to look like and we had plans to move to France which is something I always wanted to do.”

But Frank soon began asking for money.

He claimed he had been sent to work on an oil rig where the conditions were appalling.

Lesley said: “Sometimes I sent him £3,000 for machinery, £800 for his daughter’s broken leg to be fixed, £1,200 for a heated suit because it was very cold where he was.

“I say this and can’t actually believe how bloody stupid I was.”

Lesley began sending cash every week and the worrying trend continued for three years.

Her friends warned her that Frank may have been a catfish but Lesley said she was too frightened to face the truth.

She even took equity relief from her property after previously owning it outright.

Eventually, she began to confront Frank about whether he was real.

She said: “We used to argue and I would accuse him of being a scammer and I would shout down the phone to him.

“But he would always convince me otherwise. He would say he loves me from the bottom of his heart, all that crap.

“I think deep down I knew but I was fed up with my friends going on about it and I just wanted to be left alone. It is a horrible situation to be in.”

The realisation dawned on Lesley when she one day added up her losses.

To her astonishment, the figure was £160,000.

She recalled: “I was terribly upset and I just couldn’t believe what I had done. I had worked hard when I was young to buy my house outright.

“I always worked good jobs and now I’ve lost a quarter of it and he’s out there doing this to other people.”

Lesley is now relying on benefits to get by and believes she will never own her home again.

Frank stopped speaking to her when he realised he had conned her out of everything possible.

Now Lesley said the only thing that will make her feel better is to help others.

She said: “I will do anything to make people aware because I was so stupid.

“Friends tried to stop me from falling for it but I thought no he’s a good man. He knew the right buttons to press and what to say with a silver tongue.”

Lesley has now been in contact with three other women who were conned by the fraud posing as Frank.

Together, they have sent him £450,000.

  • Scams
  • Paul Hollywood

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