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ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis man has been sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for a “romance scam” that targeted two dozen elderly people, creating severe financial hardship for some of them.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced 30-year-old Hammed Akande. He pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Romance scams involve targeting victims through online dating sites and social media.

The criminals pretend to be interested in romantic relationships when the real goal is to get the victims to provide money and merchandise.

Four of the 24 victims had combined losses of nearly $575,000.