Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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War conman’s £100k from lonelyhearts

Amy Nelmes

A cruel conman posing as an Afghanistan war hero has swindled a fortune from scores of lonely women across Britain with invented tales of heroism.

The love-rat who poses as a US Special Forces officer called Captain Antonio Grosso targets ladies looking for love on the Friends Reunited dating website.

After months of online wooing with war tales, the trickster then gives his victims a sob story about his wife dying and his son being stricken with cancer – and asks for cash to help with bills.

Astonishingly, at least 20 women including an ex-police officer and a banker have sent a total of £100,000 without ever meeting “Captain Grosso”. And police hunting the rogue – whose photos are believed to be fake – say up to 150 women He so genuine said that have been duped.

One of “Grosso’s” trusting victims, a divorcee who handed over £72,000, told The People: “He seemed so genuine. I keep asking how I could have been so trusting.

“I would warn all women to be wary of these dating sites – you really have no idea who you are talking to.”

The trickster – believed to be the frontman for a sophisticated gang – tells the women his wife died in a car crash three years ago, leaving him to cope with their 15-year-old cancer-stricken son.

And he backs up his stories of military heroism with convincing emails which appear to be from America’s Department of the Army who deal with admin. The 49-yearold divorcee, who works in the financial sector and met the conman online in April last year, shortly after her divorce, said: “I spoke to him every night online for months and he said he loved me. We were going to get married. I felt devastated when he said his wife had died.”

The heartless scammer asked her to pay for his son’s hospital bill – initially £450. Over the next 12 months he continuously asked for more – even begging for £7,000 to pay off a loan to a friend.

She added: “The Army documents and email addresses seemed so authentic. I kept transferring cash thinking I would get it back when his problems were sorted.” And when she asked to visit him in Los Angeles, she was sent a fake document saying Capt Grosso had been granted a three-month vacation. But she couldn’t afford to go as she had given him all her savings.

She was shocked when police in Plymouth contacted her after an alert about unusual cash transfers.

Another woman was duped out of £25,000 for a downpayment on a house in Devon.

Detective Con Ken Ord said: “We think this is only the tip of the iceberg and there could be hundreds of innocent victims. “We believe this man has been working with a team. The email addresses are accessed by a group and we are looking at addresses in the UK, America, Holland, Italy, Canada and Nigeria.”

Andy Baker, managing director of the Friends Reunited Group, said: “We do our utmost to stop scams and provide clear dating safety advice. Our golden rule is never send money to someone you’ve only ever met on the internet.”

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November 10, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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