57ºF

A woman who lost everything in online romance con, still targeted by schemers

Victim lost $270,000, imposters continue to ask for more

ORLANDO, Fla. – Diane Standish has been on an international email money trail for the last year with promises of millions coming from the likes of first lady Melania Trump, investor Warren Buffet and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Standish said it all started when she lost everything in another con.

“It’s all a scam,” she told News 6  at her family’s Orlando home. "It’s been going on for a year now.”

The Orlando widow is the first to admit she is broke, unemployed and tired of the con games from impostors asking for personal information and data to help her secure wealth ranging from $700,000 to $50 million or more.

“I just wish they’d leave me alone,” she said. “I have some women saying, 'Oh, we’re dying and we want you to give our money to charity. We can trust you to do it.'”

Standish said she started receiving the emails and texts a few months after she lost her life savings to someone she met online.

As News 6 first reported in June 2018, Standish lost $270,000 to a man calling himself Jerry Michael aka Darnell Michael, a German contractor developing a construction project in Bakersfield, California.

She said she thought the mystery contractor was coming to Orlando to marry her.

“I never thought I would fall in love with someone on the telephone,” Standish said. “He could be anybody, anywhere.”

The photographs she had received were actually of former Bosnian Ambassador Flamur Gashi.

When News 6 contacted the Bosnian Embassy, it said it was unaware that his likeness was being used in a romance con game.

The impostors have continued to use images of well-known and respected professionals to orchestrate social media and email traps.

Standish said one email purporting to be from first lady Melania Trump offered her $1.5 million. The email address was from an Amazon work mail account.

Standish said that, this month, she received a photo and the passport of a man who claimed to be former FBI Agent Terrence McCulley. That person claimed he had located $700,000 that Standish had lost in a “Nigerian scam," which is about three times the amount she actually lost in the online romance scam last year.

News 6 has confirmed the photo and name were accurate but that Terrence McCulley is not a former FBI agent.

McCulley is a former U.S. ambassador to Mali, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire who served under the Obama administration.

According to his biography McCulley is the “recipient of four Department of State Superior Honor Awards” and has been decorated as a commander of the National Order of Mali and Cote d’Ivoire.

McCulley’s name and likeness have reportedly been used in various email schemes dating back to 2011.

In the email deception Standish received, McCulley was supposed to have $700,000 delivered to her home in a “consignment box.” All she had to do was pay less than $100. She never did, she said.

“It’s just a scam, I just don’t want anyone else to fall for this," she said.

Standish said she has been looking for a part-time job but, so far has been unsuccessful. She speaks three languages and is hopeful someone who is not an impostor will give her a chance at another career.


About the Author:

Mike Holfeld

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.

Note to users: Comments on ClickOrlando.com are migrating over to our new website. All comments before 11/12/19 at 12 p.m. will be temporarily blank until the migration is complete. All past conversations will be restored. New comments can be posted now. Questions? Contact webstaff@wkmg.com.