Imposters use photos of actor in $2 million unemployment benefits scheme

Secret Service says online dating sites used to recruit ‘money mules’

Imposters use photos of actor in $2 million unemployment benefits scheme
Imposters use photos of actor in $2 million unemployment benefits scheme

When 63-year-old Eve met Antonio Sabato Jr. on the Plenty of Fish dating website three years ago she had no idea the popular actor’s photographs had been stolen by a team of international thieves and imposters to convince her to work as a so called “money mule.”

“I really didn’t know until the detectives came, “the Orlando divorcee said. “Every day I would send money, different amounts.”

Special agents with the Orlando division of the U.S Secret Service Cyber Task Force said Eve transferred an estimated $2 million through various bank accounts, to help the man she thought was Sabato.

“I was his queen,” she said. ”He was supposed to be coming to see me when he contracted COVID-19.”

She says the Sabato imposter quickly had her leave the dating site so they could communicate by text and email.

“I was lonely,” she said. ”I wanted to see if I could meet somebody.”

A photo of Sabato taken after he had undergone hand surgery was used to convince Eve he was recovering from COVID-19 and needed her help.

The imposter instructed her to open the bank accounts and use the cash to purchase then wire cryptocurrency to another account.

In an exclusive interview with Sabato, now the CEO of Conflix Studios in Tampa, said he wanted to do his part to expose the scheme.

“I’m glad the Secret Service and you guys are on top of it,” Sabato said. “In my opinion we have to bring awareness we have to have a platform to protect people, it happens too many times.”

Special Agent Matt Britsch said imposters are constantly hiding behind stolen photographs to fool unsuspecting men and women.

“The whole reason for digital currency is to cash out without a trace,” Britsch said. “This is, right now, in my opinion the currency of choice for criminals around the world.”

If you or someone you know has been asked to open bank accounts to accept large sums of money and to purchase cryptocurrency contact law enforcement or makeendsmeet@wkmg.com


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