APOPKA, Fla. – The U.S. Secret Service has uncovered a multi-million dollar scheme that used a young Apopka janitor as a “money mule” to transfer cash, money orders and unemployment benefits to a Nigerian police barracks over the last six years.
Senior Special Agent Roger Fuentes, of the Orlando Secret Service, told News 6 the young man was convinced he was helping a woman he met and fell in love with on social media to assist a struggling church congregation.
“He admitted that they pledged their undying love,” Fuentes said. “He believed this woman cared for him.”
Investigators are convinced the words behind the romance were probably authored by men.
News 6 has confirmed the photos of the woman he loved were of an adult film star used to perpetuate a lie that lasted six years.
The woman has nothing to do with the scheme.
“He had no idea,” Fuentes told News 6. “It was romance scams, it was vacation rental scams, it was internet sales scams, any kind of scam you can think of they were funneling it through him.”
Agents acting on a tip from the Apopka Police Department were waiting for the young man when he arrived home from his shift a few weeks ago.
Fuentes said they confiscated $100,000 in cash, along with stacks of money orders, gift cards and unemployment debit cards from California and Arizona.
The man, who asked not to be identified, first met the woman on Facebook when he was just 19 years old.
He told News 6 he knew her as Carmen and they were going to be married.
She said she lived in Niagara Falls.
The young man recalled, “She said her father had cancer.”
That was the excuse the woman used to never meet him face to face.
“I trusted this person to the point that I believed her,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, she wouldn’t lie to me.’”
He provided the Secret Service with cell phone text messages and the latest stash of cash, gift cards and debit cards he was supposed to ship to Nigeria.
He said he told the woman he shared everything with the Secret Service and he has not heard from her since.
“I think she is mad at me,” he said.
Fuentes told News 6 the story of this money trail is just beginning to unfold because every package delivered to Apopka could lead back to another victim.
It’s hard to believe but it’s actually the truth,” Fuentes said. “They found that one person who is willing and able and would not raise any suspicion to actually ship money to Nigeria.”