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German woman loses £130k in scam by man 'from Northern Ireland'

A man who claimed to live in Northern Ireland has swindled a German woman out of £130,000 in an elaborate international internet scam.

The victim was Pissamai Strehle (50) who started an online relationship with a man who said he lived in Newtownabbey, in Co Antrim.

Ms Strehle met him after joining an internet dating site after separating from her husband.

She met a man who called himself Andrey Menezes and said he was a widower with two small children.

She said they fell in love and were planning on getting married.

After a while he told her he was very sick and needed an operation in Dubai - she subsequently sent him 150,000 euros (£130,000) to an address in Malaysia for the surgery.

"I trusted him and he told me he would pay the money back", she told the BBC.

The woman recently visited Belfast to try and get her money back.

She said: "I need my money back, to pay for my car and my home and everything else.

When she was asked if she thought she was naive for sending the money she said: "I know, I know. I realise that now."

She was then given a bogus loan agreement drawn up by a 'Belfast based law firm'  - which does not exist.

The BBC checked the address the man gave in Newtownabbey and no-one there had heard of him.

In addition it emerged the photographs used on the man's profile was actually of an unsuspecting American man.

The photos were taken from his Facebook page.

The man lives in a small town in Missouri and said his photos were probably used because his Facebook security settings were "not very tight" and he had children which would "supplement the heart strings they are pulling".

He said: "A lot of folks might feel like a victim but I don't. I posted the pictures on social media and I know the risks involved.

"I feel regret and sadness for those that are victims of the scamming and lost time, income and emotion to these scammers."

It is understood there is nothing to suggest any crime took place in Northern Ireland as the money was sent from Germany to the Far East.

The PSNI confirmed that an international scam had been reported to them in Belfast last month.

It's understood a report has been made to German police who are investigating this incident.

"I need to warn other women about what happened to me. Never ever get involved with a man on the internet," Ms Strehle said.

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