It takes a truly creative mind to come up not only with stories for legal thrillers and fantasy novels, but also fake personas designed to bilk women out of millions of dollars via an online dating site. Author Mitchell Gross, 61, is planning to plead guilty to exactly that today.
He scammed two women he met on a Jewish dating site into investing money with a fake broker, who was actually Gross disguising his voice over the telephone. CBS reports:
Gross, whose books include the suspense story Circle of Lies [written under a pen name], was charged in October with duping the women into investing about $4.4 million in a sham company he set up, then using some of the money to buy expensive artwork, a luxury car and a golf club membership.
Gross had apparently bragged to the women that he’d made a boatload of money with this “broker,” and they wanted to invest with him too. Just how did Gross pull this thing off?
[Robbie] Johnson, a Florida real estate agent, claimed in a March 2008 lawsuit against Gross that soon after meeting her online, he falsely told her that celebrities had optioned his books and that he had fallen in love with her. They took vacations together to Japan, Panama and Brazil, and Johnson hosted a “Meet Mitch” party to introduce him to her friends.
If prosecuted to the full extent of the law, he’d be looking at “decades” in jail, CBS says. Here is a list of warning signs about online dating scams. Never, ever wire money to someone you’ve met online, especially if you’ve never met them in person — even though, from Johnson’s testimony, it seems that Gross was an expert con man rather than your garden-variety e-scammer.
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