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British woman tries to recover R$5.5 million after being scammed by her boyfriend who pretended to be a spy

Carolyn Woods faces a legal battle to get her money back after being scammed by scammer Mark Acklom.

A woman duped by a scammer claiming to be a spy believes she will never get her money back.

Mark Acklom convinced British Carolyn Woods that he was an agent of MI6, the United Kingdom’s intelligence agency, and a successful businessman, to take her savings.

He says he lost £850,000 to himself 12 years ago and that the hearing to get the money back has been postponed until at least December 2024.

Acklom, once placed on the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) ten most wanted fugitives list, became known as “Britain’s most notorious conman”.

In 2019 he admitted defrauding Woods out of £300,000. That year he was extradited from Spain to the United Kingdom.

Mark Acklom fled to Spain but was extradited to the UK in 2019

Acklom convinced Woods to lend money to renovate several properties he owned after promising to marry her during their year-long relationship.

“It’s been going on like this for about 12 years. I don’t think I’ll get my money back,” he says.

Woods had separated and sold her house when she met Mark Acklom at the shop where she worked in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, in 2012.

“He was very passionate at the time, until I realized how bad he was,” she recalls.

“He seems to give you what you want, but then he walks away with everything.”

This security camera image from the day Carolyn Woods met Mark Acklom is the only evidence of the two of them together: he claimed he couldn't be photographed because he was a spy

According to her, the lies she told included that she was an undercover MI6 agent who often worked abroad with the British security services.

On one occasion, Woods claims to have seen him calmly walk past armed guards outside the spy agency’s London headquarters.

He now believes that the guards were actors and that the episode was staged.

“I look back and think, especially when it comes to money: How the hell did I do this? I’m a smart, rational person.”

“But Mark Acklom told me he can read people like books in minutes. He knows people better than they know themselves.”

“He knows exactly what to do to get people to act the way he wants.”

Acklom promised to marry Woods;  She also bought a wedding dress that she never wore

Woods says Acklom put her up in a luxury apartment in Bath and promised to marry her. He then persuaded her to lend him hundreds of thousands of pounds in a series of deals.

In fact, he lived with his wife nearby while lying to Woods about why he couldn’t spend time with her.

He was using the money she had borrowed to pay for the flat in Bath.

At the same time, Acklom was also carrying out a series of other scams in Bristol, Bath and Gloucestershire – several small businesses and entrepreneurs lost thousands of pounds.

Because he is fluent in Spanish, he eventually fled to Spain.

“I try to have hope”

Woods never got his money back and says it’s been difficult to get his life back on track.

Acklom was released from prison in Spain in 2023 after flying back there.

This came after he was jailed for almost six years in the UK for defrauding Woods.

Since 2019, when he pleaded guilty to fraud, there have been attempts to recover money from Woods through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Law enforcement can force criminals to repay money obtained through crime – or face additional prison time.

The final hearing to determine the amount Acklom will have to repay was scheduled for April 2024, but was postponed until December because the judge was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict.

“As you get older, all the things I thought I would do at this stage in my life just become impossible, because there’s no money,” Woods says.

“Most of all, I would just like to be independent and have my own place to live.”

Financial investigator Claire Berrington says Acklom could be arrested again

“Prison makes you think better”

Accountancy expert Claire Berrington has attended around 70 confiscation hearings under the Proceeds of Crime Act. She says the legislation provides for a prison sentence if criminals do not pay the stipulated amount.

“In many cases, these sentences are much heavier than the sentence for the original crime committed. The prospect of spending more time in prison makes you think twice like nothing else,” says the expert.

But he recognizes that criminals like Mark Acklom are adept at hiding their assets.

“I think it’s very unlikely [Carolyn Woods] recover everything because, in simple words, [os criminosos] they take the money and spend it,” he says.

“They tend to spend on vacations and lifestyle. That’s why they’re called lifestyle crimes.”

But he says the Proceeds of Crime Act is “widely successful” as a method of recovering criminal assets.

Mark Acklom, arrested for fraud in at least three countries, was photographed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2017

Woods believes that because he is a longtime con man, Acklom will know how to hide his money from the authorities.

“His advice to me was to never have anything in your own name, because someone might come and steal it. So I would be very surprised if it turned out he had assets in his own name.”

“I really don’t think I’ll get my money back.”

“However, I think he should be required by law to pay me whether or not I see the color of money.”

In a statement, a Government spokesperson said: “More people are being brought before the courts… and our latest figures show the Crown Court has had more sitting days in the last financial year than at any time in the last seven years – for a total of over 107 thousand sessions.”

“We are also increasing investment in the system.”

‘Moral obligation’ to return

Woods also appealed to Barclays bank to refund his money.

Mark Acklom told her to open a Barclays account early in their relationship, which she did.

He deposited his savings into this account, transferring hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Woods believes someone within Barclays may have helped facilitate the transfer of the money.

“I would expect them to feel some moral obligation. If you look at my bank statements, you can see this total hemorrhaging of money.”

“I know that I made some of these transactions under Mark’s coercive control [Acklom]. They should have been more careful with my money.”

A Barclays spokesperson said: “The matter has been investigated thoroughly and we have shared our detailed findings with our client.”

“We found no evidence that members of the Barclays team collaborated in the fraud.”

Data obtained by the BBC in February revealed that reports of dating scams have increased by almost 60% over the past four years, driven largely by online criminals.

The British government has said that fraud in general is decreasing and that it recently launched a new campaign against online fraud.

Source: Terra

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