The group created false profiles on Match.com to pose as middle-aged men and told victims they were their ‘soulmate’ and ‘inspiration’.
One woman received a message describing ‘the love thundering into our hearts that only we can understand’.
According to a report on Daily Mail Online, The gang invented a story about needing money to ‘free up’ a £1.5million inheritance locked in an Indian bank account to press the ‘vulnerable’ singletons for cash, prosecutors said.
Monty Emu, 28, Eberechi Ekpo, 26, Adewunmi Nusi, 37, and Brooke Boston, 28, allegedly pocketed £220,000 from women they targeted. One woman paid them £174,000 in total, the court heard.
Opening the trial on Monday, prosecutor Simon Edwards said bogus Match.com accounts were set up to contact ‘emotionally vulnerable’ users.
One profile, for ‘James Richards’, described him as ‘very attractive’ and listed his height, build and hair colour.
Once they lured a woman they would exchange messages on the site and then move to text messages and email, where they were unmonitored, jurors heard.
The victims were told Mr Richards’ father had died and left him £1.5million. He asked them for £700 to help fund a trip to India to access it.
‘Mr Richards’ went on the trip but hit problems and needed more money to obtain a series of certificates and an affidavit to release his inheritance, the story went, with the sums ranging from £10,000 to £100,000.
The scam included a fictitious lawyer, Rod Thompson of ‘Quality Solicitors’, fake court documents and tax clearance certificates.
Mr Edwards said: ‘The operation of the conspiracy was fairly straightforward and its success depended on the trust and co-operation of the victims in this case.
‘It is fair to say – and I hope I do not do them a disservice in this – by and large the victims were financially vulnerable and also to an extent emotionally vulnerable.
‘The conspirators exploited their emotional vulnerability to ensure financial reward for them and those who laundered the money.’
Money was paid into bank accounts and transferred on, and cash was withdrawn around Portsmouth, Hampshire, Mr Edwards said.
Suzanne Hardman, of Basingstoke, Hampshire, handed over £174,000 in several payments after being contacted by ‘James Richards’ in March 2012.
She received messages saying she made him ‘feel like a complete man’ and another – referred to in court as the ‘thundering email’ – that told of ‘the love thundering into our hearts that only we can understand’.
Mrs Hardman broke down as she told the court how, having separated from her husband, she handed over her savings from the sale of her former marital home.
‘Certain things just didn’t seem right, but because I was led to believe that I was dealing with a solicitor it seemed fine, because he was taking care of the money – or so I thought,’ she said.
But not all women contacted fell for the group’s claims, and the scam eventually came unstuck, the court heard.
Mr Edwards said ‘elementary mistakes’ were made, such as a passport supposedly belonging to James Richards sent as proof giving his name as Richard James and an affidavit listed £1.5million ‘starling’ rather than sterling.
Boston, Emu and Ekpo, from Southsea, Hampshire, and Nusi, of Thatcham, Berkshire, deny money laundering between August 2012 and December 2013.
Boston and Ekpo deny committing fraud by false representation from March 1, 2012, and February 9 2014.
Boston’s husband Emmanuel Oko, 29, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to fraud and money laundering, and Chukwuka Ugwu, 28, has pleaded guilty to money laundering.
The trial will continue and it is set to last four weeks.