'This could happen to anyone', warns blogger who was victim of 'Love Fraud'
The ex-fiancee of a conman who pretended to be a multi-millionaire wine trader, fooling his victims out of more than £100,000 (€117,000), has warned others of the dangers of so-called "love fraud".
Lasse Hartmann, a Danish national, used his relationship with lifestyle blogger Adanma Wokoh to get vast sums of money from her and her professional contacts.
His victims, numbering more than 20 people, lost in excess of £104,000 (€121,000) during the 17-month period of his scams, police said.
The 43-year-old convinced Ms Wokoh, with whom he had an 18-month relationship, they should rent a flat in the affluent Belgravia area of London, she said.
He bought her an engagement ring he told her had cost £50,000 (€58,000) which turned out to be worth just £20 (€23).
In his guise as a businessman, using the alias Lars Petraeus, Hartmann promised various investors wine packages that were never delivered, costing one trader almost £20,000 (€23,000).
Unbeknown to investors and Ms Wokoh, the professional fraudster was using much of the money to fund his gambling habit, police said.
He was found guilty on Thursday at Snaresbrook Crown Court of 22 counts of fraud.
Ms Wokoh, who described giving evidence at his trial as "probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life", said despite the trauma she does not want to see herself as a victim.
She told the Press Association: "I had a lucky escape. I feel like it could have been so much worse. I don't want to feel like a victim.
"I have come out of this quite strong. My family really rallied around me, and my friends."
The 32-year-old, who runs a blog about living in London, said she believes she lost close to £13,000 (€15,000) to her former partner, but because of her Christian faith she has decided to forgive him.
Asked what message she has for Hartmann, she said: "He really needs to look at what he is doing to people and get some kind of help or rehabilitation.
"He did not look like he was showing remorse (in court)."
She added: "People may think they will never be a victim of a con artist but I'm testimony it can happen to anyone.
"I went into the relationship hoping to find my life partner and finding out it was a sham almost broke me. When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up.
"While I'd never wish this on anyone, it's made me stronger in the process.
"My faith, family and friends are helping me recover. As bitter as this was, I want to share my experiences with the world so other people can avoid the grief and pain I had to go through."
Pc Alex Ramsay, head of the Metropolitan Police unit in charge of the case, said of Hartmann: "He exploited everyone around him, not least the woman who thought that she was going to marry him.
"He used her status as a respected food blogger to give him credibility and from there managed to convince a number of businesses to go into partnership with him.
"He never had any intention of delivering his side of the bargain and simply used their money to fund his lavish lifestyle and gambling habit.
"He is now facing the very real prospect of time in prison, which reflects the devastation and misery he has caused to such a large number of victims."
Hartmann, of Cardinals Way, north London, is due to be sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court on April 28.