It sounded like an innocent dating ad in a local newspaper. But it ended up costing three Aussies $500,000. This is their tragic story as they searched for love
A romance scam that left three men duped out of nearly $500,000 and a trio facing a series of fraud charges likely has more fraud victims who haven’t spoken out, police say.
Two Benowa women, aged 52 and 29, and a Mermaid Beach man, 52, have been charged by Queensland Police with offenses including fraud, receipt of tainted goods, possession of tainted goods and breach of an order regarding access to electronically stored information.
It is alleged that the trio defrauded three men between June 2022 and February this year.
Two men in their 60s signed up for a paid dating service after answering a personal ad in a newspaper, making payments to a woman in her 50s who claimed to be a widow.
Police say the woman claimed she needed large payments to terminate her employment contract.
“There will likely be other victims and complainants, not just locally, but across the country,” Inspector Jason Chetham told reporters on Thursday.
“We are asking anyone with information about these offences, whether they themselves are a witness or a complainant, to come forward.”
“We would love to hear their story. We will not judge them at all.
A newspaper ad that police say is linked to the investigation
Police say three men were scammed out of nearly half a million dollars
The two Benowa women were each charged with five counts of fraud.
One of the men lost around $42,000 before raising concerns with a friend about a possible scam.
His case was brought to the police in February.
A second Cassowary Coast man lost a total of $343,500 before reporting the scam to police in March.
In July, police carried out searches at two addresses in Benowa on the Gold Coast and one address in Mermaid Beach, where they recovered $79,200 in cash hidden in pillows.
Property investigations led police to find evidence that a third man had been deceived into the same scam, a man in his 50s from Western Australia was allegedly scammed into over $111,000.
The 52-year-old faces additional charges of receiving contaminated property, possession of contaminated property and breaching an order regarding access to electronically stored information.
Two women are due to appear in court next month
Both are due to appear in Southport Magistrates Court on October 3.
The Mermaid Beach man, 52, has been charged with four counts of fraud and is due to appear in the same court on September 18.
Inspector Chetham said embarrassment can be a barrier for people to come forward, but police treat such incidents without judgment.
“We can also provide them with support services if they have been victims of crime,” he said.
“If you find yourself in a situation where you have to pay money to introduce yourself to people, that’s an immediate red flag.”