Prison Pen Pal Frauds and Personal Ad Internet
Singles in search of romance are increasingly turning to personal
ads. But so are criminals while looking for an easy mark. Prisoners’ personal
ads have proliferated in recent years, and while some prisoners
may be looking for genuine contact with life outside their prison
walls, many such ads are part of a sophisticated mail fraud scheme
that misuses postal money orders to bilk consumers of their hard-earned
If you begin to write letters to a prisoner who is attempting
to cultivate you for his mail fraud scheme, he will slowly attempt
to gain your trust and confidence. If you are a single woman, he
may even send you love letters and handsome photos, and promise
to marry you upon his release. Male prisoners posing as women try
to lure men into the scheme as well.
While confessing his love for you, he will also admit that he
is serving a prison term for a tax violation or other non-violent
offense, unrelated to his own. Then he will say his prison term
is almost up, and he’s looking forward to starting a new
life together with you when he is freed.
Eventually, he will get around to asking you to cash one or more
postal or money orders for him, claiming that he needs the money
to pay attorney fees or court fines. Where does he get each high-value
money order? He will obtain them from an accomplice outside
the prison who buys them in small denominations (often only $1)
and then smuggle them inside the prison, where they are altered
to reflect higher values.
When you assist your pen pal by cashing any such money order—and
sometimes there are many of them totaling thousands of dollars—you
are told to send the money to a "friend" of the prisoner,
whom you’re told is helping with his legal defense. Of course,
this friend is the outside accomplice. You will be told first to
deposit the money orders in your personal bank account, for temporary "safe-keeping",
and then to pay out the funds to the outside accomplice.
Shortly after sending the money, you will receive a cruel "Dear
Jane or John" letter asking you to understand that your pen
pal only did what he or she "had to do" to survive, and
now that he’s out, the relationship is over. But he’s
not out. He’s still in prison. And what’s even
worse, he now has your money.
Since the U.S. Postal Service routinely compares all of its cashed
money orders with the original receipts, all altered postal money
orders will ultimately be discovered.
Under current law, the person who cashes, or deposits and then
withdraws, an altered money order is responsible for its total
value—in this case, the altered value. Therefore,
shortly after you pay out the temporarily held funds from your
bank account, your bank will notify you that you must pay the difference
between the issued amount and the raised amount. For example, if
you cash a $1 money order that has been altered to read $700, you
will end up being charged $699 in addition to possible fraud charges.
Online Russian Marriage Fraud
04/21/04 - ( Pravda.ru ) By cheating gullible foreigners hoping
to marry Russian females, a man from Chelyabinsk became rich (his
earnings were estimated up to $800,000).
The inventive 30-year old man from Chelyabinsk found the way to
get some dollars from foreigners. No violence, people will be glad
to give their money, and minimum risk: the victims live far from
Russia, and they are unlikely to call the law enforcers in the
"I live in Chelyabinsk - the city with a cold climate and
bandits wandering around the streets. Russia is such a frightening
country that I would be eager to come to you as a virgin and give
birth to babies from you", wrote the mysterious "girl" from
Chelyabinsk to dozens of e-mail addresses picked up in the Internet.
There were different signatures of real women (the swindler"s
friends or relatives). However, he did not post their real photos,
but selected the pictures of the most beautiful Russian women from
The swindler was smart, but too greedy, and his greediness let him down.
He was writing too much - to 3,000 foreign men simultaneously.
The swindler"s message hit the target: men abroad responded
to the desperate e-mail of the chaste Russian beauty. Long sentimental
exchange of letters followed. Foreigners sent gifts to the girls" mail
addresses, and the price of gifts grew as the long-awaited meeting
was approaching. To meet the men, the girl asked them for money:
first to repair the computer, then to purchase air tickets and
pay for visa. Soon $500-1000 was received in Russia via Western
Union. This was the end of the love story of the foreigner and
the Russian girl. New e-mail messages were breaking hearts of new
single men abroad.
This option of making money was working for 2 years. The swindler
explained to the girls whose addresses he was using, that he was
working on a new Internet software and received money and gifts
as his salary. The girls trusted him, and in addition the man gave
them 1,500-2,000 rubles per month for their receiving money orders
and parcels for him. The swindler became rich, he purchased 3 vehicles
and built a luxury house.
All of a sudden, in June 2001 a cheated Australian fiancé sent
online message to the website of President Putin. The Australian
asked the authorities to check if the girl paid taxes from her
income, he did not know that there was big-scale fraud under the
letters of "the woman from Chelyabinsk who mislead me about
marriage during our correspondence". The President Administration
passed the e-mail message to the police.
The swindler was not scared of the policemen coming to his place.
He claimed his actions had not been a crime.
The policemen confiscated computer, hard currency, jewelry, perfume,
toys, collection coins, video- and audiocassettes from the man.
His computer database contained information on simultaneous correspondence
with 3,000 men! The swindler did not write everybody, those who
showed themselves either greedy or smart were not honored with
his letters any more.
All the rest donated money to him. He had sponsors from Canada,
Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Australia, New Zealand and other
countries all over the world. There were no men from the former
USSR - the swindler was concerned that they could have reached
When the police was investigating the complaint of the Australian,
a British timidly posted on the website of Chelyabinsk governor
that he had been deprived of more than 1000 pound sterling in the
Russian police had to write many letters abroad, and 9 foreign
men agreed to testify against the swindler. According to Russian
Criminal Code, he can be imprisoned from 5 to 10 years and have
his property confiscated.
The swindler did not say he was sorry, and refused to return the
money to foreign men. He probably considered himself a financial
genius because he had started playing at international stock
exchange online. His Swiss bank account allowed this, and also
to become a fiancé himself and find a daughter of a millionaire
as his bride.
Lonely-hearts scam on Internet results
in couple's guilty pleas
Nonexistent Russian women were the bait
By Marisa Taylor - UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
04/08/04 - (CA) A San Bernardino County man pleaded guilty yesterday
to using the Internet to dupe more than 250 men into shelling out
money for Russian wives and girlfriends who didn't exist.
Robert McCoy, 40, admitted in U.S. District Court in San Diego
that he and his wife used the Internet for at least two years to
pose as Russian women seeking companionship. The couple would strike
up online romances with unsuspecting men and then ask for money
to travel to the United States to meet them, according to his plea
agreement filed in federal court.
In a separate guilty plea, his wife, Anna Grountovaia, admitted
she persuaded four San Diego men to wire $1,850 each. The victims
sent the money to a fictitious Russian dating agency, believing
it would pay for the women's visas and travel expenses.
McCoy also solicited money from the victims by claiming the women
needed $1,500 in cash to meet the requirements of a new U.S. Customs
Authorities believe the scheme netted at least $1 million and
may have involved other people in Russia or Ukraine.
McCoy faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at
his June 22 sentencing. Prosecutors, however, have agreed as part
of Grountovaia's plea agreement to ask a federal judge to sentence
her to only a year in prison.
Grountovaia is originally from Russia and could be deported as
a result of her guilty plea. The couple, who have a 2-year-old
child, remain married despite their legal troubles, their attorneys
U.S. officials began investigating the couple after a Baltimore
man tipped off a London newspaper about the scheme.
Russian Bride Scams
women Black List - photos and names
of reported scammers and scam agencies.
Thai Bride Scams Victims in the UK - article