Real Life

Real life: ‘I was scammed three times!’

“Our scandalous love shocked everyone, but the joke was on me.”
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Suzie Kazungu, 60, from Brisbane, Qld, shares her shocking true life story…

I smiled seductively and winked at the computer screen.

“I want you to feel like I’m there with you,” my boyfriend, David, 52, said all the way from England.

“I feel you, sweetie,” I sighed.

I hoped he could see how happy I was.

David and I had a ritual of eating dinner together every night over Skype.

But the camera on his computer was broken so while he saw me, I’d only ever heard his warm and gentle voice talking to me.

It didn’t matter that all I’d seen was his profile photo, I was just happy to have company.

At 56, with three adult children who’d moved out long ago, I lived alone and craved companionship.

I’d gone from my parents’ house to living with my husband at 18. We were married for 14 years and had three beautiful children together, but our relationship didn’t last.

Later, I met another man and married again.

We’d been happily married for 12 years when spinal surgery left me in hospital for five months. Shortly after, our marriage collapsed.

I’d been so lonely ever since.

Every night I ate dinner in silence then slept in a cold bed.

All I had was my Schnauzer dog, Henry.

When a friend suggested online dating, I thought it was a good idea.

That’s how I met David and we’d been smitten ever since.

He was a labourer whose sexy accent left me weak at the knees.

We spent hours chatting each day.

I told my sister-in-law, Helen, about him.

“He sounds too good to be true,” she mused.

My beautiful little dog, Henry – my only companion before David…

Six months after we started chatting, David rang me frantically.

“I’ve been in an oil machine accident,” he cried. “I need a big favour.”

I clutched the phone, my heart racing with panic.

“My daughter needs a new laptop,” he sighed. “I can’t do anything in hospital. Can you send over some money?”

What? We’d never even met and he expected me to fork out $6000 for his daughter?

David understood my anger, but he gently helped me to see reason.

If I was in hospital, I’d want someone to help out my kids.

I knew nothing about internet banking so I read my credit card details to him and he transferred the money himself.

I had my own savings, but I used a separate account which had the $67,000 I’d inherited when my dad passed away.

“You’re the best,” David said. “I’ll pay you back right away.”

Three days passed and he didn’t message.

Since he was in hospital I didn’t worry.

I went grocery shopping but at the register, the check-out woman frowned.

“Your card’s been declined,” she said.

I hurried to the ATM to check my balance.

I nearly fell over when I saw the big, fat zero on the screen.

David had wiped me clean!

Bile rose in my throat as I stumbled to my car.

How could my lover do that to me?

I thought David and I had a real connection.

At home I slept near my computer, desperately waiting for him to call and say this had all been a mistake.

But he never contacted me again.

I was a wreck, but I was so ashamed that I hid my heartache, too embarrassed to tell anyone what a fool I’d been.

I’d really believed that he loved me.

After a few miserable weeks, I got a message from an American man named Johnson Williams, 50.

In his profile picture he was dressed in a Marines uniform.

Sick of men, I ignored him.

The next day, he sent another message.

I’m really lonely on deployment, he explained.

He said he was based in Afghanistan.

Despite my misgivings, my heart went out to him.

He was just as lonely as me.

I don’t know if I can talk to you, I wrote.

This man I knew just hurt me really badly.

Instead of judging me, Johnson was kind.

‘I promise I’ll make that up to you’, he replied. ‘Trust me.’

Johnson was a fantastic listener and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders when I explained my heartache to him.

Life was tough for him on deployment and he also knew what it felt like to sleep alone.

We were birds of a feather, just two lonely souls trying to find a connection.

When we spoke on Skype, he begged to see my dog, Henry, and spoke to him so nicely.

Just like with David, I never saw Johnson, except for his gorgeous profile picture – but I knew reception was terrible in the army camp.

Sometimes, at night, we were intimate over Skype.

“I love you so much,” Johnson whispered. “I want to be there with you.”

I was still too embarrassed after that mess with David to tell my kids.

I fell for Johnson and would do anything to help me.

We’d been talking for a year when Johnson called me, panicking.

“If I want to live, I have to leave this camp,” he choked. “I don’t have any money on me. I need $5000 to get back to America.”

I didn’t think twice.

I loved Johnson and I would do anything to keep him alive.

“I’ll transfer the money right now,” I promised. “Just get the hell out of Afghanistan.”

I sent the money through but, hours later, he messaged:

The Taliban attacked. My best friend was shot. I have to go out and help fight.

For five days I waited with bated breath, desperate for news.

Finally, he messaged. He was so apologetic for worrying me but finally he was safe.

“My sergeant has offered for 20 of us to leave in a private jet,” he wrote. “A ticket will cost $42,000, but I’ll be with you in a couple of days if you pay it.”

Johnson had come so close to being shot.

I transferred the money without a second thought, excited to see him.

But over the next few weeks, I found hurdles kept getting in our way.

He got in touch from Washington Airport to say he’d been detained there.

I had to give him some money for him to be released.

Then he needed to buy his plane ticket to Australia.

I had no cash left by then so I sold my house for $410,000 and, after paying some bills, gave him most of the money left over from that.

I’d been planning to downsize anyway and moved in with my sister.

But as weeks passed, and Johnson didn’t come, his lies hit me like a tonne of bricks.

How could I have fallen for these scams twice? I stopped sending money, but Johnson still messaged, badgering me for more.

He tried to worm his way back in but the damage was done.

I’d trusted and loved this man for more than a year and he’d taken $320,000.

It was nearly everything I had.

This monster had tricked me into loving him.

I thought about killing myself to end my pain.

I was worthless and nothing could change that.

I sold my house to help him out.

My heart still bleeding, I hopped back online, desperate for a shoulder to cry on.

I met a man from Uganda, Godfrey Kazungu, 44.

Unlike David and Johnson, he talked to me on Skype and actually showed his face.

He wasn’t some stranger behind a screen.

Seeing his kind face, and lovely dark curls put me at ease.

“Don’t believe those scammers,” he said when I opened up about my past.

With Godfrey’s help, my heart slowly healed.

Godfrey never asked for anything even though life was tough.

His father had recently died of malaria and he had to look after all his 20 relatives.

The more I talked to Godfrey, the more I fantasised about running away.

So I booked a seven-week trip to Uganda and, that night, told Godfrey.

“You’ll be part of my family,” he promised.

A few weeks later I flew to Uganda.

Godfrey greeted me at the airport.

When he embraced me, my nerves were instantly put at ease.

I’d been worried he’d expected someone younger or thinner, but he hugged me tightly with genuine affection in his eyes.

After all the betrayals, I’d finally found someone who liked me for me.

That night, I met his whole family.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and, in front of everyone, Godfrey got down on one knee and proposed.

I blinked back tears of happiness and nodded.

We started planning the wedding.

Because Godfrey’s family was so poor I had to pay for the ceremony and reception.

I also bought my own stunning white lace gown and veil.

As the bills from the wedding skyrocketed to $15,000 I nearly ran out of the last dregs of my savings.

My trust in Godfrey was waning, but I couldn’t say anything.

Me and Godfrey when we met for the first time.

I was alone in Uganda and had to stay safe.

Within a month, our wedding day rolled around and we said our vows in front of Godfrey’s family and village.

I felt beautiful in my white dress and Godfrey was dashing in the tux I’d bought him.

As we danced as husband and wife, I couldn’t stop smiling.

Despite my anxieties about Godfrey’s motivations, I was happy.

I’d already booked a return flight and sadly, I was due to leave two days after our wedding.

The morning of my flight, Godfrey gave me his birth certificate so I could sign his visa application.

“I can’t wait to come to Australia and be with you,” he told me.

But looking over the certificate, my heart sank.

Godfrey was just 28!

I fell into a nearby chair and gasped. “I’ve married a child!” I blurted.

Godfrey begged forgiveness, but I felt disgusting and sleazy.

He was half my age! And he’d lied to me.

“I love you,” he pleaded.

Tears stung my eyes as I shook my head.

“You don’t know what love is!” I shouted.

Godfrey chased me outside, but I refused to listen.

“Please,” he begged as I jumped into a taxi.

I realised that Godfrey hadn’t even cried when I’d left.

All the love I thought he’d felt for me was just so he could come to Australia.

I cried all the way home.

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I’m seeking an annulment from Godfrey but being free from him won’t help me.

All up, I’ve lost $480,000 to these scammers and now I have nothing left.

My family are angry and upset and I’m more alone than ever.

After sharing my story on A Current Affair, the whole world learnt about my mistakes and everyone called me a fool.

But scammers strike when you’re vulnerable and they know how to make you fall for their lies.

I want victims to know they’re not alone.

My life is empty but at least I can help others.

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