An 80-year-old widower was ripped out of his $ 200,000 savings by a romantic scammer who stole the identity of a Florida woman, convinced him they were in a relationship, and led him to pay a 500- tons of marble lion statue from China to the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York ‘.
According to the Oregon Financial Regulation Division, the older man from Portland, Oregon, from a $ 200,000 catfished in an extensive scam that lasted several months between 2018 and 2019.
The victim was persuaded to participate in a business venture and sent money to the fraudster to pay shipping costs for the ‘marble’ lion – who in fact turned out to be a wooden lion sitting in a square in Wuhan.
The scheme began when the scammer, who is not identified, allegedly stole the identity of a woman from Jacksonville, Florida, and presented himself as an online dating service to lure the unsuspecting widower.
The fraudster convinced him that they had a long-term romantic relationship, leaving the unfortunate romantic open to exploitation.
The oriental lion in the Fortune Plaza Times Square in Wuhan, China. The victim was persuaded to send money to supposedly pay shipping costs for the ‘marble’ lion – who actually turned out to be this wooden lion in Wuhan
Once the man was “under her” spell, she persuaded him to invest in an art gallery she said was running in Florida.
The scammer then said she was looking for investors to pay the $ 5 million needed to ship a 500-tonne marble lion statue from China to the Metropolitan Art Museum (The MET) in New York, the regulators said.
The scammer is said to have promised that his investment would be repaid plus the profit from the lion’s sale.
The depths of deception even extended to the man who received fake documents, including bank statements and letters and a contract from The MET describing the scheme.
Headlong with his new love and convinced that he was offered a credible business opportunity, the widower made a series of five-month payments to various individuals and foreign bank accounts, totaling more than $ 200,000.
Then his money – and his lover – disappeared.
The older man lost his entire investment and federal investigators have not found the scammer so far.
Regulators said the fraudster had used a stolen identity and sent the money to offshore accounts, making it difficult to identify the person.
The investigation confirmed that the MET did not have anything to do with the transactions or the fraudulent documents.
The 80-year-old widower was lifted from his $ 200,000 life saving by the scammer who stole the identity of a Florida woman, convinced him they were in a relationship, and led him to pay for the $ 5 million shipping cost for the lion ( up here) )
The lion statue that, according to regulators, the fraudster used in the scam is actually made of wood – not marble – and can be found at Fortune Plaza Times Square in Wuhan, China.
Known as the Oriental lion, it measures 47.5 feet long, 16.5 feet high and 13 feet wide, making it the world’s largest redwood sculpture, according to Guinness World Records.
The giant sculpture took 20 people more than three years to carve out of redwood in Myanmar before being transported to its current home in December 2015, where it has become a popular tourist hotspot.
There are no plans to relocate the mammoth structure to a new home in New York.
Ironically, the lion is a symbol of power in this case and is used to ward off evil spirits in Chinese culture.
The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation warns other people to watch out for fake romance, with older people in particular falling prey to scams by artists.
“Romance scams usually target older people, gain their trust and then ask for money through social media and dating sites,” said Andrew Stolfi, department manager.
“Unfortunately, victims often transfer money abroad or to external transfer agents, making it difficult to trace the money and identify the scammer.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission.
Fraudsters target people who are looking for love with fake online profiles, often disguised by hiding the identity of real people before they come up with a trick to send their new ‘love interest’ money.
More than 21,000 people fell foul of romance scams in the US in 2018, with victims reporting losses totaling $ 143 million – higher than any other consumer fraud – according to Consumer Sentinel.
The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation recommends that people protect themselves against catfishing by: do not send money to someone they have not met in person, using one licensed money sender if you send payments to third parties and keep copies of all communication with scammers and report this to the authorities.
“Valentine’s Day is almost here, love is in the air, and the Oregon Financial Regulation Division is warning, don’t get catfished,” the agency said.