Romantic cheating: looking for love in the wrong place turns out to be expensive

For the victim, a 78-year-old man from Annandale, it all started with trying to find a friendship. He created an account on the social network iFlirt, then made contact with someone who called herself a widowed woman in her 30s who seemed interested.

Falls Church, Virginia (AP) – For the victim, a 78-year-old man from Annandale, it all started with an effort to find a friendship. He created an account on the social network iFlirt, then made contact with someone who called herself a widowed woman in her 30s who seemed interested.

However, as relationships grew, scams began to appear on the Internet. The woman, who claimed to be from New York, said she was arrested during a trip to Germany to inherit gold bars and she needed money to post bail. The man paid only to get another message that she had been arrested a second time and needed even more money.

After all, the Annandale man, who is not listed in court documents, received more than $ 500,000, the latest victim in a growing trend known as romantic fraud.

According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, fraud in novels has reached a record high in 2021, increasing by almost 80% since 2020. Over the past five years, victims have lost more than $ 1.3 billion from such scams, according to the FTC, more than any other category of scams tracked by the agency.

Two people who cheated on Annandale’s man will be sentenced in federal court in Alexandria on Friday. Ghanaians Linda Mbimadong and Richard Broni played a relatively minor role in the fraud: prosecutors describe them as “money mules” who never contacted the victim but helped obtain and launder money in exchange for a 5% to 10% reduction. income.

Prosecutors estimate that the scheme targeted several victims and received more than $ 42 million, most of which will go to Ghana, where the fraud was headquartered.

In a note of sentencing before Friday’s hearing, Mbimadong and Broni, who were living in New York City at the time of his arrest, apologized for their actions.

“I have to express my ugly truth. I was selfish, ambitious and eager to succeed, ”Mbimadong wrote.

Jessica Auber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, is handling the Annandale man case. She said a large number of romantic scams remain unregistered because victims are embarrassed to fall in love with fairy tales like the one crucified by the accused in the case, around the widowed royal family and the legacy of gold bars. But she said scammers are refined and patient in their approach, building relationships with goals for months before making their move.

“These scammers know exactly how to play on people’s emotions,” Aber said in an interview. “They use third parties to try to confirm the stories that are unfolding.”

Authorities are taking the complaints seriously, Aber said; in recent years her office has been haunted by several cases of fraud in the novel.

The fraudsters are based both domestically and abroad, she said. Sometimes fraudsters unravel exotic tales of international intrigue; other times the approach is more mundane.

Richard Dorp, a Ghanaian, portrayed himself as a bald 57-year-old white man from Virginia Beach named “Jerry Linus” on the dating site for seniors “OurTime”. He cheated on the 68-year-old widow from Chesapeake for more than $ 300,000, as well as things including clothes, a computer and jewelry. When she ran out of money, she took out a real estate loan.

Last year, a federal court in Norfolk sentenced Dorpe to more than three years in prison.

Aber is urging potential victims to turn to law enforcement. She noted that the FBI has a website to report crimes online, and does a good job of connecting the points of different reports when they are made.

“The best thing you can do is report it to potentially prevent other people from falling victim to such a scheme,” she said.

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