THEY met on a singles website, promptly fell in love and for the next six years, Debra Lee-Ann Costelloe and "William Thompson" were in a long-distance relationship.
"William Thompson", who said he was a UK-born, Sydney man in Ghana on business, would call Costelloe every morning and serenade her with a song, telling her it would not be long before they were together and living "happily ever after".
But within a month of meeting online, the man claiming to be "William Thompson" began asking Costelloe to send him money.
The 50-year-old estimates that over the next six years she sent $50,000 from her superannuation fund as well as $1000 a fortnight on-and-off.
She took out a number of personal loans, went bankrupt and was threatened with eviction a dozen times.
It was a typical romance scam; a person purports to be someone else online, builds a relationship with their victim and then uses that goodwill and affection to have them send as much money as possible.
But Costelloe's case has a twist. At some point during their relationship, "William Thompson" began sending her money.
The scammer felt he had built up enough trust with Costelloe that he could use her to launder the money he was stealing from victims just like her from around the globe.
Costelloe claims "William Thompson" told her he was dealing in gold and did not want to set up a Ghanaian bank account, so he had his investors transfer money into her accounts.
Costelloe would then wire the money to him via Western Union or MoneyGram or send him iTunes cards, phones or other electronics.
More than $164,000 passed through Costelloe's accounts over the next few years and she was repeatedly warned by banks and the police that what she was involved in was money laundering and she had fallen victim to a romance scam.
Each time she was warned or told she was being scammed, Costelloe went back to "William Thompson", who told her it was all legitimate.
"I had no reason to believe otherwise," Costelloe said.
She pleaded guilty to knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, but after giving evidence on Monday that she had been "duped" and did not benefit financially from the scam, Judge Penelope Wass said she could not accept her plea.
The matter was adjourned until next month.