A cruel couple tricked elderly and vulnerable victims on dating sites out of hundreds of thousands of pounds with fake relationships.

Ibrahim Moro, 33, and Rebecca Patrick, 32, tricked one victim into sending money to a man she thought was a German widower living in Ascot, buying gold, silver, and diamonds for clients.

Moro and Patrick received hundreds of thousands of pounds from other victims which they laundered through their bank accounts.

Moro, from Bromley, southeast London, was convicted of five counts of possessing criminal property and one count of fraud.

Patrick, from Croydon, south London, was convicted of four counts of possessing criminal property and one count of fraud, after a five-day trial at Croydon Crown Court in November.

Both were sentenced at the same court and Moro was given five-and-a-half years in prison and Patrick received an 18 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

The judge also ordered all money recovered in the investigation will be returned to victims.

NCA operations manager Paul Boniface said: “These defendants exploited the vulnerability of their victims, selling them a relationship story they desperately wanted to believe.

“Romance fraud affects victims not only financially but also emotionally – many victims find it too painful to contemplate they have been scammed by someone they thought they could trust.

"Criminals may pretend to be a trusted person when they message but if something seems suspicious or unexpected, such as requests for money, listen to your doubts and do not send funds.”

Investigators recovered emails from one victim who believed they were in a romantic relationship with a man they met online - who didn’t actually exist.

By July 2016, she received a request for money and was later persuaded to send £18,000 after fraudsters told her they were having problems with insurance.

They started a friendship and although she never met him, she regarded him as "a close friend and confidant".

In March 2016, she was told he was overseas and had bought some precious stones, but was unable to leave the country until he had paid taxes on them.

The victim was asked to pay the amount and was told "if you don’t loan me the money, that means you don’t care about me".

The victim said she felt under pressure and paid £2,500.

The transfers were made to Patrick’s account with the full amount withdrawn in cash by the defendant days later.