‘I can’t believe I fell for it:’ Woman with disability loses $11,000 to online fraudster

Romance scheme uses photographs of handsome oil rig worker

HOLLY HILL, Fla. – When 60-year-old Wendy Peterson saw a News 6 special report featuring another woman falling in love with an imposter who used social media photographs of veteran actor Antonio Sabato Jr. she realized that story sounded a little too familiar.

“I can’t believe it fell for it, this is pretty bad,” Peterson said.

The disabled former restaurant manager from Holly Hill said her romance with oil rig manager Gabriel Bosun evolved from friendship to a marriage proposal in just a few months.

“We were going to move to Houston,” she said. “He thought I would be a good stepmother to his daughter.”

[RELATED: Imposters use photos of actor in $2 million unemployment benefits scheme]

The relationship that started in January shifted to conversation of money and romance by the first week in May.

Ironically, Peterson never heard his voice or communicated over video like Zoom or Facetime.

Peterson said she had no idea she was being duped until she saw the News 6 report that featured a woman who was unwittingly used as a money mule by an international crime ring to move $2 million in unemployment and small business loans.

Peterson said Bosun deposited three payroll checks into her bank account to cover payments to his 10-year-old daughter’s Nanny in California.

She presented News 6 with the signed receipts for Amscot money orders made to the order of Janet Lidikay.

Much to her surprise a woman claiming to be Lidikay called her from her home in California and asked her to email the money order receipts because she was unable to cash the $3,500 money orders.

The Orlando Secret Service contacted Lidikay and learned she was not a nanny but a 68-year-old widow was convinced Bosun also loved her being used in the same plot.

Special Agent in Charge Caroline O’Brien- Buster said Lidikay was being used as a money mule and did not realize it.

O’Brien-Buster said she had seen the photos used in this scheme in other money mule cases spanning the past three years.

“These are perfect pictures for this scam,” she said. “You have a good looking guy on an oil rig, usually that’s the story, they can’t get to their money or they have to send money to their child.”

The day after Peterson saw the News 6 investigation she went to her bank and discovered the checks deposited in her account were worthless.

She now owes the bank more than $11,000.

“I called him out,” Peterson said. “He claimed he didn’t know why it happened and said he would look into it.”

This past weekend the man posing as Bosun asked Peterson to apply for a small business loan of up to $150,000.

She contacted News 6 and the station alerted the Secret Service.

When she told Bosun the Secret Service was involved he asked her to delete his email on the Hangouts app they had been using over the past several months.

O’Brien-Buster said the schemes are not unique and cost American taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

If you have been contacted by someone that has asked you to wire money are apply for small business loans contact mholfeld@wkmg.com

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.