We are providing the information below in
the hopes that it
will help you obtain justice in a possible sweetheart scam.
This information is not meant to discourage you.
It represents the first step that must be taken with any crime or
civil dispute – learning what options are available to the victim
under the current system. It
is crucial that you understand the way the police and a large segment of
the public view sweetheart scams. It
is also crucial that you recognize the difficulty of obtaining justice
for this fraud which is very rarely viewed as a crime.
But possibly most importantly, it is vital that you, as a victim with
first-hand experience, use whatever options the system offers to force
the thief who stole from you to face some kind of consequences and
inconveniences for the crime. If
you are able to do this, it will help you regain some of the power you
lost as a result of the betrayal. And
it is possible that some of your actions might lead to punishment,
either civil or criminal, for the thief.
There are two options for justice when someone you know
steals from you: criminal charges and civil suit. The chances of the first occurring are slim in today's
criminal justice system for several reasons: under-funding of police
departments and prosecutors and lack of training for police officers who
investigate these charges and often determine prematurely that the issue
is civil, not criminal.
Limited funding limits police involvement in fraud investigation because
trained personnel are scarce and a great deal of time and effort goes
into these investigations. This time and
effort is being directed towards homeland security and violent
crime, both of which take precedence over non-violent white collar crimes.
Because of these obstacles, it is very difficult for a victim
to obtain justice with the help of the system. However, you may be one of the few victims who can actually
produce sufficient information to convince law enforcement to criminally
charge the person who stole from you.
If so, we encourage you to do this. Here are some of the tools
and information you will need to accomplish this feat:
While you may have been the victim of theft by someone
you loved or knew well, the technical definition of fraud must be proven
beyond a reasonable doubt in order to prosecute.
Summarized, this definition is that you gave money to someone based on information given to you by that person which he/she
was a lie. There must be
documentation, witnesses, etc. to prove this in order for a jury to
convict the person of fraud.
If you believe you have the evidence to prove fraud, the Fraud Recovery
Center can provide the research you need to document your claims.
Possibly, a criminal background check will show that the person who
stole from you has an extensive pattern of behavior for fraud.
This can encourage law enforcement to take a second look.
possible documents and evidence that you may be able to produce yourself
(1) A forged signature on a check the thief claims you
wrote to him/her? Can you
show your real signature and the forged one side by side?
(2) Credible witnesses who will tell the police that
they will testify for you in court?
(3) Cell phone bills that show the person was making calls to a
"significant other" while he/she was simultaneously claiming
to love you and taking your money. These individuals can be
subpoenaed to testify in court.
(4) The thief used a false identity
while you were providing money. If the false identity was used to
conceal a criminal background or active warrants, you were obviously duped into parting with
It is very important to remember that the essence of the fraud you are charging the
person with is theft of money. It
is not about theft of affections. It
is not criminal fraud to date more than one person at the same time.
It is not criminal fraud to have an extra-marital affair. It is
not fraud if you give someone gifts and they just accept them and
disappear. It is not criminal fraud if you give someone money for rent,
car payments, etc. if the money is actually spent on these expenses.
It is only fraud when someone purposely and knowingly lures your
money from you by providing information which they clearly knew to be a
lie – and that they intended to use the money for their own benefit
and never fulfill the mutual agreement with which they bribed you in
order to acquire the money.
If they deceived you in order to buy a business or car or house which
you did not want but which you could benefit from, then the purpose of
the lie was to not to steal your money for their exclusive benefit. If the investment turned bad, then the act by the other
person would fall in the category of bad judgment, not fraud.
Being an alcoholic, gambler, drug addict, having an arrogant attitude
that hinders steady employment and being an indolent slob are not crimes
in themselves. These
character weaknesses, however, can lead to lies that are intended to help these
kinds of people support themselves and their habits.
This is why most con artists have some kind of an addiction that needs
constant refueling. But if a victim supports one of these kinds of
people for a period of time, knowing their character weakness, it
legitimately will not be regarded as criminal fraud.
One of the greatest obstacles to reforming the American criminal justice
system on the issue of sweetheart scams is the predominant mindset of
the public regarding the victims’ own “complicity” in the loss of
their money. The public
tends to believe that the victim should have known better and, therefore,
it is not reasonable to ask that taxpayers’ dollars be spent to help
them get their money back or get “revenge” on their former friend
who took it. Of course, victims
know how misguided this attitude is.
But it is very real and if you have already attempted
unsuccessfully to convince law enforcement to charge your
fraud, you know that this attitude is prevalent in the law enforcement
community as well.
Until the public recognizes that sweetheart fraud or relationship fraud
or business partnership fraud can easily happen to anyone who is not
cynical and compulsively suspicious, this reform will remain an uphill
battle. It is possible that the
Bernie Madoff case may give a positive nudge to this reform. After
all, Bernie Madoff does not have a criminal record and was the darling
of Wall Street during his long-term Ponzi scheme. How could anyone
know what self-centered con he was running for his own
aggrandizement? Yet, the destruction he has left in his path,
including the suicide of an investment manager, is proof positive that
con artists destroy communities, not just individuals.
The only sure security system against this kind of financial betrayal is
to enter into all relationships with suspicion, with full background
checks and with constant monitoring of mutual activity where money is
involved. Because this is
not the way most Americans want to live their lives, the only
alternative is to guarantee that con artists will be held accountable
for any betrayal that leads to the losses of victims’ money.
And to guarantee that the penalties for this betrayal are
sufficient to actually deter con artists from doing it over and over
If you cannot prove fraud because of lack of evidence,
you still have the option of suing the person in civil court.
Too many people let this opportunity slip by because they have to
do it themselves instead of the system doing it for them.
You can go to small claims court and represent yourself without an
attorney and even if the amount of money stolen exceeds the small claims
court limit, a judgment will allow you to obtain a subpoena in order to
find the person's assets and find the person.
It will give you powers that you will not have without a
judgment. Your judgment will accrue interest each year and one day the
defendant may have assets and you can seize them or put a lien on them
to collect on your judgment debt.
If your fraud involves an Internet scam and you do not know the true
identity of the person who stole from you, you may be able to file a
John Doe lawsuit to subpoena the Internet Service Provider, the e-mail
provider, PayPal, eBay and the providers of any other Internet services
that were used by the subject. When the information is obtained,
unless the subject used a stolen identity, you will know the true
identity of the person and can then proceed with criminal charges or
civil litigation. Joe Doe lawsuits are usually filed in federal
district court because of the interstate jurisdictions.
Do not let the statute of limitations expire on your case.
Check with your state to see what they are.
Generally, the statute for IOU's and money owed range from one to
If you have money owed, the statute starts running
when you discover that payments have ceased. or that fraud occurred.
If you sue, you might also want to consider suing for fraud
(if you can prove it) since a judgment based on fraud cannot be
discharged in a bankruptcy and often you can sue for treble charges.
If your subject has fled to a foreign country, you will need to
determine what is required for transferring a judgment from the U.S. to
the other country's courts. This is usually also required within the
U.S. when a defendant with a judgment in one state moves to
another state. In the U.S. the process is often referred to as
domesticating a judgment and it is relatively easy to do through an
attorney. However, in a foreign country, the rules may not be as
If you married a con artist, you may be able to file for an
annulment based on fraud, rather a divorce. This
will make it much easier to protect any of your assets the person is
trying to obtain from the fraudulent marriage.
If you already know that the person who stole from you is a
fugitive, you may want the Fraud Recovery Center to locate the person so
you can serve a Summons. If there
is an outstanding warrant that is extraditable, our research may help
land the person in jail..
If your fraud involved a Nigerian connection of any kind, this adds
another dimension to the case.
This fraud has put a new twist on an old scam.
Originally created to lure money from victims through a
get-rich-quick promise, the Internet has made it easy for
these scammers to use dating sites to steal money using love
instead of profit as the lure.
The chances of getting any justice
for this kind of fraud is almost nil. This is because the FBI,
Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Inspector are not going to investigate
these crimes unless the money lost meets the six figure threshold.
And even then, identifying these Internet criminals may require the
cooperation of law enforcement in other countries, which is not always
Below are links to some Web sites that offer emotional support to
victims of fraud. We encourage you to take advantage of
these support groups if you have been involved with someone who
defrauded you. Some of our clients have told us that just knowing
that they are not alone in their tragedy has been very therapeutic.
(1) Yahoo’s Romance
Scams Message Board: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams/
- This group shares photos and personal information provided by Nigerian
Support group and message board for victims of infidelity: http://groups.msn.com/InternetChatInfidelity/_whatsnew.msnw
(3) Blog for women who have been in destructive
We also urge you to utilize the greatest reform tool available to
you on this issue – a letter to your legislators.
Summarize your case in a one-page narrative with the general
points of the fraud and the specific negative responses you received
from law enforcement. Your
legislators cannot help initiate reform if they do not know about the
We are not attorneys and do not give legal advice. We are fraud victims' advocates and our purpose is to help
you know what rights and options you have in order to obtain justice for
a fraud that may have been perpetrated on you.
Our advice is based on the actual experiences of victims who have
either criminally charged or civilly sued someone who defrauded them.
We encourage you to contact a competent attorney in your area to
assess all options available to you.