(Colorado, U.S.A.) Widow loses $500,000 after falling for fake 'military lover' in internet dating scam
A grieving widow has lost $500,000 of her life savings and her home after being taken in by an Internet dating scam.
Esther Ortiz-Rodeghero, 55, decided to look for love online after she lost her husband and thought she had hit the jackpot with a suave military man on the website, seniorpeoplemeet.com.
Instead it was a fraudster who convinced her to continually fork out money which Mrs Ortiz-Rodeghero wired all over the world from her home in Castle Rock, Colorado.
She had started to look for love online last October after her husband David Rodeghero died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 52.
She told ABCNews.com: 'After seeing a therapist I was advised maybe I should go on a dating website and meet new people ... because I was depressed.'
The 55-year-old came across a site called seniorpeoplemeet.com.
It was there that she met a man called Wayne Jackson, a handsome, dark-haired man wearing fatigues who said he was an Army general. He claimed he was based in Iraq but wanted to retire and come home to America.
She said: 'I was so blinded by it, because if you were to read some of the emails he would send me, this man was romancing me.' "Together. We're going to be happy together. You're the woman of my dreams." Things that a woman who is hurting for attention and love would want to hear.'
A month into the romance, he began to ask for money.
WEB OF DECEIT
Esther Ortiz-Rodeghero received hundreds of emails from 'Army general Wayne Jackson' with subject lines that began casually - 'Hi Honey' - but became more and more intense - 'You Will Always be In My Heart', 'We Can Do Anything' and 'Until The End Of Time'.
One gushing email reads: 'Dear Esther, We are meant to be together for the rest of our lives, this we know. Each night is spent dreaming of your face and wishing you were next to me. I love you with my entire being. Meeting you was fate. Forever Yours, Wayne Jackson.'
At first she sent $500 after he explained that his American bank account had been frozen and he couldn't sort it out in person because he was in Iraq.
He then told her of his plans to start a shipping business when he came back from service and asked her to help him with the start-up fees so they could run it together.
Mrs Ortiz-Rodeghero sent him $100,000.
She said: 'All the time he kept telling me, "I'll pay you back, I'll pay you back. I'll take care of you, don't worry."
During the entire relationship, they didn't once speak on the phone 'because of security reasons'.
She continued to send more and more money, using up her savings, her husband's life insurance and her 401k. The scam has left Mrs Ortiz-Rodeghero with nothing and to add to her worries, she recently lost her job as a financial analyst after working 17 years for the same firm.
Her house is in foreclosure and she has declared bankruptcy.
The 55-year-old went to her local police department in Castle Rock who has since filed a report to the FBI.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has been set up by the government to try to stamp out this kind of web crime. (Backlogged 8+ years as of this writing)
The agency said the most vulnerable to the scams are those over 40, divorced, widowed, disabled or just lonely.
In April, it posted specific advice for those who become involved in online dating. It includes warnings to be careful of suitors who declare their 'undying love', tell harrowing stories of family tragedy or ask for money too quickly.
In more serious cases, victims who have agreed to meet in person with an online love interest have been reported missing, injured, or in one instance, dead.
The site seniorpeoplemeet.com, also warned against taking potential dates at face value.
It tells users not to wire money and be wary of those who talk about 'destiny' or 'fate' and claim to be from the U.S. but working or travelling abroad.
Mrs Ortiz-Rodeghero now says she will stick to dating the more traditional way.
SOUNDS LIKE NATHAN ERNEST BURL THOMAS, JR.