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[NEW YORK DAILY NEWS] Online dating nightmare: Widow robbed of $500K by scamming Internet companion

09 Nov 2011 11:21 AM | Anonymous
Online dating nightmare: Widow robbed of $500K by scamming Internet companion

Cops warn online daters to be cautious of 'sweetheart scammers'

BY RHEANA MURRAY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2011, 1:49 AM

A woman who thought she’d struck the jackpot on an online dating site was instead wiped clean of her life savings by an Internet scammer – and now she’s facing bankruptcy, ABC reported.

Esther Ortiz-Rodeghero, 55, was looking for love online, months after her husband died of pancreatic cancer, and thought she’d found it with a man who claimed to be an Army major general named Wayne Jackson.

“I was grieving, and I was lonely, and I wanted someone to share my life with,” she told ABC. “He was romancing me.”

The object of her infatuation presented himself as a military man who had only given in to online dating after insistence from his pleading sister.

“He told me he was a widower and he lost his wife in an automobile accident,” Ortiz-Rodeghero said.

The couple began emailing nearly every day – exchanges that included lines about being in love and spending a future together.

“He would say things like, ‘We’re going to live together. We’re going to be happy together. You’re the woman of my dreams,’” Ortiz-Rodeghero told ABC. “Things that a woman who is hurting for attention and love would want to hear.”

Soon “Wayne” began asking for money – first, a few hundred dollars to help his son, then thousands to launch a business, one he said the two of them would share and run together.

Ortiz-Rodeghero complied, sending money all over the world, she told ABC.
She cleaned out her personal savings, her husband’s life insurance and 401K. When she ran out of cash, she took out loans.

It wasn’t until Ortiz-Rodeghero sent her online companion money for a plane ticket to come see her in Castle Rock, Colo., and he never showed up, that she realized she was the victim of a scam.

“I could just kick myself,” she said, leafing through a stack of wire transfer receipts.

Castle Rock police Lt. Tim Gormon says Ortiz-Rodeghero’s story isn’t an isolated case, and warned online daters to be cautious of so-called “sweetheart scammers.”

“It could be a male, a female, older, younger – you don’t know who you’re speaking to,” Gormon said.

For now, the woman who lost her husband, and then lost everything else, says she’s done looking for a relationship online.

“I will never, ever, give another man another dime,” she said. “This dating website thing is not for me.”


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