Fake Giovanni Penrice conned Scots nurse out of £62k in romance scam

A nurse was conned out of £62,000 by an online fraudster pretending to be controversial Strictly star Giovanni Pernice.

The health care worker, who asked to be known only as Cecee to protect her identity, took her mum to see the dancer in Inverness in March last year.

She went on to leave a comment on his Facebook page after the show.

The 44-year-old, from Inverness, was stunned to get a reply and - after believing a series of online claims - was tricked into paying out £1,500-a-week to the conman.

Later, when she refused to continue meet his demands, she was blackmailed.

Cecee has now decided to publicly tell her story for the first time as a warning to others.

She said: “I have spent £62,000 since this started last year.

“It happened after I made a comment on his fan page. I got a response within 15 minutes and we began chatting about Strictly. Then he asked me about myself.”

As the scam unfolded, Cecee was taken in.

She said: “It was generally a little bit cheeky, asking if I wanted to pay for their lunch and I was like, ‘No, you’re a celebrity, I’m sure you’ve got plenty of people to pay for your lunch’.

“Then he asked me to buy him an Amazon voucher for some charity. So I did it. I bought the voucher and sent it.

“I was constantly buying £1500 pounds worth of vouchers, every week, until this February.

“Then he said that since my mum loved dancing, he could get me a pass to use for us to go to Strictly for £3200.

“I knew that didn’t sound right. I said I wasn’t going to pay that or transfer any money.

“He said, ‘Oh, it’s fine. You can buy these vouchers called Steam Vouchers, which is what I did.”

But alarm bells rang when the passes didn’t arrive.

Cecee, who was already separated from her husband, said: “When I questioned the person, I got a lot of threatening messages.

“He made really vile comments about me and said he would contact my husband and the doctors that I work with to let them know what I was up to.

“So when he was nice about stuff, he was really nice, completely love-bombing me all the time - then it turned to absolute hatred.”

Cecee said the ordeal has crushed her confidence and taken it’s toll on her health after she lost three stone.

She continued: “I just don’t know who I am as a woman anymore. It sounds pathetic, but sometimes I miss the conversation with this person, even though they’ve been so horrible.

“In the messages, he said that he wanted me to be with him forever, that he wanted to marry me, that I was the perfect woman for him and that he’d ever met a woman like me.

“When I read these things back, it’s like, gosh, what an idiot.

“I was quite a confident woman, but when he trolled me, telling me that I’m ugly, I’m not good enough and that I’m nothing, it was just horrendous and it gets into your brain.

“My personality has completely changed.”

Cecee decided to report the individual to Police Scotland and Pernice’s management, but they have yet to be traced.

She added: “The person was constantly saying things about killing themselves, harming himself and harming me and my family.

“I contacted Giovanni’s management company to make them aware about his self-harming. I passed on a couple of messages that I’d been sent by the person to the management company and told them I’d been paying out the money.

“I got a reply back just to say this will not be Giovanni but they would make him aware of the situation. Then they suggested I contact the police.

“But the police don’t know what to do with it. They said I should just delete everything, but that is the only proof I have. I have thousands of emails and messages.

“I don’t know what else I can do and I don’t want to let him get away with it.

“Someone is impersonating Giovanni and he could be doing this to other people.”

Cecee’s bank investigated and returned £41,000.

Pernice stepped down from Strictly last week after a series of official complaints made against him by three of his nine former celebrity partners.

Amanda Abbington, who was paired with him for the 2023 series, dropped out on medical grounds in October.

She has since claimed she had mild PTSD from her time on the show.

Detective Chief Inspector Craig Still of CID said: “On Friday, 8 March, 2024, we received a report of romance fraud from the Inverness area. Enquiries are ongoing.

“These criminals seem kind and trustworthy, but they are very skilled at making you believe their feelings are genuine. They will speak to you for long periods of time before asking for financial help. Their aim is only to ever get your money.

“We take all reports of this type of crime seriously and would advise that if anyone has been a victim of this type of crime to report it to Police Scotland on 101. ”

Giovanni Pernice’s management has been contacted for comment.

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