Woman loses $100,000 to online romance conman

‘I fell in love with a version of him,’ victim says

Rebecca D’Antonio said she will never forget the day she told her online lover she was going to commit suicide as she faced financial ruin.

Rebecca D’Antonio said she will never forget the day she told her online lover she was going to commit suicide as she faced financial ruin.

“I’ll never forget the indifference in his voice,” D’Antonio said. “He said ‘well you have to do what you have to do.’”

D’Antonio knew him as Mathew Sean a single dad from Australia who had recently moved to the U.S. They met on okcupid.com a free online dating service. Over the course of a year, he had swindled her out of $100,000, creating stories ranging from malaria to lost credit cards, convincing her to wire money to various accounts.

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The victim said he always promised to “fix” the problem. At one point, she was so desperate she offered to pay for his flight to Orlando but he went silent.

“I think it was shell shock,“ she recalled. ”It was like the biggest kick in the gut you ever got in your life.”

D’Antonio agreed to go public with her online dating nightmare in the hopes that someone else will be spared the same fate.

“I was at the happiest point in my life I’ve ever been until he scammed me,” D’Antonio said.

The photographs she saw online were lifted from the social media site of a New England attorney. The attorney, who News 6 has opted not to identify, had no idea his photographs were being used by romance conmen.

D’Antonio admits she looked past the early warning signs that started with the imposter’s profile.

“Lost his wife to cancer, was a single father,” she recalled. “I fell in love with a version of him.”

Investigators with Socialcatfish.com are convinced the texts and calls were from a team of young Nigerians who used the now-infamous Nigerian playbook. A recent study found Florida ranked second in the nation for these schemes with more than 1,300 victims in 2019.

Federal investigators say Florida is not unique to romance love schemes. The Orlando U.S. Secret Service reports Americans lost a staggering $300 million to online romance scammers in 2020 alone.

Special Agent in-charge Caroline O’Brien-Buster said it comes down to lonely people who want to believe the online connection is real and that is what the conmen are counting on.

“That’s why you see these pictures used multiple times,” O’Brien-Buster said. “They’ll push until the person stops giving them money.”

D’Antonio filed for bankruptcy and said she is close to erasing the bills created by her “donations” to the romance imposter.

“I don’t want anyone to go through any version of what I went through,” she said.

For more information on how to spot a romance scammer, check out Social Catfish.

About the Author:

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.