Two foreign men conned millions out of bamboozled lovers

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Two foreign men conned millions out of bamboozled lovers

Two foreign men who operated an online dating scam were arrested Wednesday for extorting hundreds of millions of won from unwitting Koreans by impersonating U.S. military service members and doctors dispatched overseas.
 
Paju police precinct in northern Gyeonggi said on Aug. 11 that it has arrested one foreigner in his 20s and another in his 30s on suspicion of committing fraud and other charges.
 
The pair are suspected of extorting 150 million won ($129,000) from five victims from April to June.
 
According to police, the two men approached the victims using social media accounts with pictures of attractive foreign men and women to pose as U.S. soldiers and UN doctors posted overseas.
 
In their messages to the victims, the suspects claimed to be attracted to their targets and said that they were looking for a serious relationship that would lead to marriage.
 
They also wove stories about having a recently deceased spouse to garner their victims’ sympathy.
 
Police said that one of the suspects deceived a victim by claiming that he was a female U.S. soldier posted in Afghanistan and received $1.3 million from the U.S. government as compensation for leading a mission against the Taliban, but wanted to send it all to the victim in Korea.
 
In order to get their targets to send them money, the suspects would express misgivings and the need for actions to give them confidence about a future relationship.
 
One message read, “Please, I want you to assure me of your sincere friendship. Inside me, I believe we will build a strong and reliable friendship that will stand the test of times.”
 
After gaining the victim’s trust, the suspect convinced him to wire 125 million won for fabricated expenses of a promised encounter, including airfare and customs clearance fees.
 
When the victims expressed doubts or suspicions about the money transfers, or the lack of communication after the money was transferred, the suspects sent messages assuaging them that their romantic intentions were sincere.
 
“Sweet friend, like I have told you that I work as a military personnel. We’re here in Afghanistan and we are in the military camp,” the suspect wrote in one message. “It is very unfortunate that I might not always have the time here to chat with you, but I assure you that I will always put my best interest to make you happy by my sweet words.”
 
In the case of another victim, the suspects apologized for the deception and promised to send him a parcel returning all of the money they had taken, in cash. According to police, they then stole another 12 million won from the victim, who sent the money after being convinced that it was needed for delivery fees.
 
When the police raided the suspects’ place of residence and took the two individuals into custody, one of the pair strongly resisted. Police also suspected him to be under the influence of illicit drugs at the time.
 
The man in his 20s has denied all of the charges against him.

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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