APOPKA, Fla. – Six months after admitting he had been duped by international conmen to move more than $3 million to offshore bitcoin accounts, the Apopka custodian who fell for the photograph of a porn star told News 6 he did it again.
The custodian, who asked to remain anonymous, recently received $12,000 in cash from California, Texas and Missouri along with a $20,000 counterfeit check that appeared to be from a physician in Potomac, Maryland.
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News 6 confirmed the signature on the check did not match the doctor’s name.
“I just thought in my mind, she wouldn’t lie to me again,” the tearful man said. " She said, ‘I love you, baby. I miss you.’”
This all started because the custodian was convinced the woman he still calls his wife was going to travel to Central Florida in time for his birthday. The money was supposed to be deposited for her travel expenses from Niagara Falls to Orlando.
He told News 6 they were married “spiritually” even though they have never spoken, met in person or even communicated in the last six months.
Senior Agent Roger Fuentes of the Orlando Secret Service told News 6 romance is a common tool to hook unsuspecting men and women, again and again.
“A lot of these money mules that we see, 2 out of 5 fall for it again,” Fuentes said. “He was willing to do it, he didn’t ask questions, just as simple as that.”
The Orlando Secret Service tells News 6 it is currently investigating dozens of money mule cases where many of the victims are still in denial.
A retired Air Force serviceman now living in Central Florida had been moving money for a woman he knows as Marta. He contacted News 6 when his bank shut down his account because he had no explanation for the source of the funds he had been receiving.
When the Secret Service explained it appeared to be a money mule scheme he wanted proof.
In an email to News 6, he wrote, “I have been given no evidence by the Secret Service or anyone else as to this person’s (Marta) true identity.”
The photos he received from “Marta” appear to be of a European model who has no idea her photographs are being used in these schemes.
In each case, the victims are part of a network, moving money from U.S. banks to bitcoin accounts.
“Basically, he acts as the banker for these different fraud groups out there, " Fuentes said. “He sends it in bitcoin and that’s how they get their money.”
The custodian said he felt “manipulated” and was going public to warn people not to use social media to find love with people who refuse to meet you face to face.
“Here I go believing that I can find it (love) on the internet, find it on Facebook or Instagram,“ he told News 6. “And that’s not where it’s at.”
You can help stop romance imposters by reporting suspicious profiles or messages to the dating app or social media platform. Then, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Learn more at ftc.gov/romancescams.
If you think you have been set-up by a romance imposter, email Mike Holfeld at: firstname.lastname@example.org.