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Lovesick: Michigan Woman Ordered by Court to 'Break Up' with Online Romance Scammer, Authorities Say

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Source: UNSPLASH

Jun. 2 2024, Published 12:02 p.m. ET

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A 70-year-old Michigan woman has been ordered by the court to cease "facilitating" a suspected international fraud ring by sending packages to her own romance scammer, authorities said.

As part of a civil consent decree, Holly Locke, 70, is permanently prohibited from "assisting, facilitating, or participating in any romance scam," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan recently announced.

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Locke allegedly acted as a "money transmitter" after developing a relationship with a romance scammer online. She allegedly received numerous packages from strangers that she then sent on to her "purported fiancé/husband." The packages contained money from other scam victims who believed they were sending the funds to their own online romantic partners.

In agreeing to the consent decree, Locke did not admit any liability.

“This office is committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect Americans from fraud,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said in a statement. “This consent decree cuts off the flow of money from the victims to the international fraudsters behind these scams. In an increasingly online world, people are under constant threat from unscrupulous people trying to compromise personal information or otherwise defraud them. This case should put fraudsters on notice that we will protect our citizens from this particularly cruel type of victimization.”

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The civil action is the first of its kind in the Eastern District of Michigan, but is part of "trend" in the Justice Department's efforts in recent years to disrupt international fraud rings that dupe U.S. citizens through fake social media profiles for romance scams.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to safeguarding all Americans from individuals who attempt to exploit them through fraudulent and deceptive schemes. Today's civil action, unprecedented in the Eastern District of Michigan, should serve as a warning to anyone engaging in or abetting similar scams — you will be held accountable and brought to justice," said Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Detroit Division.

Authorities are urging consumers to watch out for "signs someone is trying to recruit them to receive and transmit fraud proceeds."

"Do not agree to receive money or checks mailed to you or sent to your bank account for someone you have met over the phone or online. Do not open a bank or cryptocurrency account at someone else’s direction. Fraudsters will lie to persuade you to help them. They may falsely tell you that they are helping you get a lottery prize, initiate a purported romantic relationship, and then tell you that they need money, or pretend to offer you a job, an opportunity to invest in a business venture, or the chance to help in a charitable effort," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

For those who know someone age 60 or older who may be the victim of financial fraud, the Justice Department operates the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).

TMX contributed to this report.

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