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Crime N.J. couple charged in $6M dating site scam that bilked at least 33 victims

16:46  24 june  2020
16:46  24 june  2020 Source:   nj.com

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A South Jersey couple was charged Tuesday in an international romance scam that used bogus profiles on dating websites to woo unsuspecting victims into giving up The conspirators bilked their supposed online romantic interests out of money using false emergencies, according to investigators.

DATING websites and apps typically see a surge in activity this time of year as people who felt lonely over the holidays try to follow through on New Year’s resolutions to find someone special with whom to share their life, or maybe just someone agreeable to share their bed on a cold winter’s night.

A South Jersey couple was charged Tuesday in an international romance scam that used bogus profiles on dating websites to woo unsuspecting victims into giving up more than $6 million, federal authorities said.

  N.J. couple charged in $6M dating site scam that bilked at least 33 victims © Foto: Thomas Trutschel/Getty

Martins Friday Inalegwu, 31, and Steincy Mathieu, 24, a husband and wife from Maple Shade, face charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, according to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities arrested Inalegwu while Mathieu remained at large.

The married couple and their conspirators, including some in Nigeria, carried out the con from October 2016 through last month, according to documents in the case. In all, federal investigators identified 33 victims who were scammed around the country.

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I was approached on a dating site by an attractive person. This person's profile was full of pictures and short For anyone else reading this because they're researching dating site and app scams , do a reverse Off the top of my head I can see at least three ways that this interaction could be monetised

Authorities alleged the scammers reached their victims through dating websites and social media, and pretended to strike up a romantic relationship with their targets. Agents found profiles allegedly used in the scam on sites including, eHarmony.com, Match.com and Plenty of Fish, documents show.

The conspirators bilked their supposed online romantic interests out of money using false emergencies, according to investigators. Some of the claims included customs fees, taxes, medical and travel expenses. Court documents show the victims wired the money or mailed checks to the scammers, who used the fake online personas.

In one case, a victim was duped by a profile claiming to be a Kentucky-native and widower who purported to be in South Africa for work, according to a criminal complaint. After about six weeks of chatting and forming a fake relationship, the scammer convinced the victim into sending money to fund his supposed businesses and medical expenses.

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You meet someone through a dating website or chat room, you start to get to know each other, and it can feel very real. Avoiding these scams means carefully scrutinizing any online relationship that develops too fast. Never give money to someone unless you also have a relationship with them offline.

Mr. Rimasauskas was originally charged with five criminal counts that included identity theft and money laundering. “Mr. Rimasauskas was far from a major actor in this matter,” Mr. Petrus said, adding that he did not know of any other people who have been charged in connection with the scheme.

The unwitting victim sent $114,900 to various conspirators, one of several payments, according to court papers. Facing apparent financial ruin from the fraud, the victim allegedly began stealing money from her work to pay the accused scammers.

“In or about March 2017, after exhausting her savings, liquidating her retirement account, borrowing from friends and family, taking out a personal loan, and maxing out her credit cards, [the victim], employed as the finance director, began embezzling money from her employer,” a federal agent wrote in the complaint.

In all, the victim funneled $4 million to the scammer from her employer, according to the document. She pleaded guilty in a local court for embezzling from her job.

Inalegwu, Mathieu and their conspirators also defrauded people by advertising properties they didn’t own and collected application fees and security deposits on the properties, authorities said.

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Scammers flood dating websites with fake profiles and wait for victims to come to them. Don’t reveal too much personal information in a dating profile or to someone you’ve chatted with only online. Scammers can exploit details like your last name or where you work to manipulate you or to commit

Every year, hopeful Americans on online dating sites lose millions of dollars to so-called "romance scammers ." After years of dating frustration, Montana resident Debbie Best thought her luck had finally changed when she met a handsome antiques dealer from Florida through an online dating site .

Authorities said Inalegwu and Mathieu directly received $3.1 million in the scheme. The duo allegedly spent the victims’ money on their own expenses while also transferring the funds to accounts run by conspirators in Nigeria and Turkey.

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Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com.

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