A COSTA BLANCA woman lost at least €226,000 when she was fooled into believing that she had met a romantic American soulmate via social media.

A group of Spanish-based Nigerian scammers pretended to be high-ranking US army officers or engineers to con money out of single women looking for some love and friendship.

The crooks hit the jackpot in one case as a victim ended up paying the fraudsters close to a quarter-of-a-million euros.

She filed a complaint with the Guardia Civil in Gandia, who then launched an operation to bring down the gang.

Six people were arrested in simultaneous raids in Barcelona, Gran Canaria, and Valencia.

Five of the detainees were Nigerian nationals along with a Spaniard.

The Guardia Civil has not revealed what the total amount of money raised by the scammers might be,

The group created fake identities to lure in their romance-seeking victims, as they pretended to be Americans who were army medics or marine engineers.

Their social media profiles often portrayed them as widowers with teenage children and their photos and details were copied from genuine US citizens.

One profile featured a US army official who was acting as a peace envoy in the Middle East.

In the time-honoured tradition of online fraud, once a trusting relationship had been established, requests for money from the women started.

The Guardia Civil also uncovered an extensive money laundering operation to hide the gang’s illegal gains.

That included a network of “mules” who spent the acquired cash on internet shopping or transferring it between accounts via ATMs across Spain.

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