It looked like an innocent dating ad in a local newspaper. But it ended up costing three Aussie blokes $500,000. This is their tragic story as they searched for love
A romance scam that left three men duped out of almost $500,000 and a trio facing a string of fraud charges likely has more fraud victims that have not spoken up, police claim.
Two Benowa women, aged 52 and 29, and a 52-year-old Mermaid Beach man have been charged by Queensland Police with offences including fraud, receiving tainted property, possessing tainted property and contravening an order about access to information stored electronically.
It is alleged the trio defrauded three men between June 2022 and February this year.
Two men in their 70s engaged in a paid dating service after responding to a personal advertisement in a newspaper, making payments to a woman in her 50s who claimed to be a widow.
Police allege the woman claimed she needed large payments to get out of a work contract.
‘There are likely to be other victims and complainants out there, not just locally, but across the nation,’ Inspector Jason Chetham told reporters on Thursday.
‘We would ask anyone who has information about these offences whether they’re a witness or complainant themselves to come forward.
‘We’d love to listen to their story. We won’t be judging them at all.’
An advertisement in a newspaper that police allege is linked to the investigation
Police allege three men were defrauded almost half a million dollars
The two Benowa women have each been charged with five counts of fraud.
One of the men lost about $42,000 before raising concerns with a friend about a potential scam.
His matter was referred to police in February.
A second man from the Cassowary Coast lost a total of $343,500 before reporting the scam to police in March.
In July, police conducted searches at two addresses at Benowa on the Gold Coast and an address at Mermaid Beach, where they recovered $79,200 in cash stuffed in pillows.
Investigations at the properties led police to evidence of a third man duped under the same scam, with a man in his 50s from Western Australia allegedly defrauded out of more than $111,000.
The 52-year-old faces additional charges of receiving tainted property, possessing tainted property and contravening an order about access to information stored electronically.
Two women are due to face court next month over
Both are expected to appear in Southport Magistrates Court on October 3.
The 52-year-old Mermaid Beach man has been charged with four counts of fraud and is expected 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 these incidents in a non-judgemental way.
‘We can also provide support services to them if they have been victims of crime,’ he said.
‘If you find yourself in a situation where you have to pay money to get an introduction to people, that’s a red flag straight away.’