LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) – Looking for love in all the wrong places — The FBI says 32 people from all over the world were swindled out of their money in a dating scam they’re calling, “One of the largest of its kind.”
Many of the victims were elderly women.
FBI agents arrested 11 people in Los Angeles, California and another three around the country. In all, 80 people are facing charges including fraud, money laundering and identity theft.
“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna.
Roughly $10 million was stolen, according to investigators, and all of it was done online.
“This case involved 32 confirmed victims. Victims were located in the United States as well as in Japan, the UK, Lebanon, China, Ukraine, China, Mexico, Germany, Indonesia, UAE and Trinidad and Tobago,” said Paul Delacourt, of the FBI.
They were the elderly, vulnerable, lonely or lovelorn on dating sites and social media as well as businesses that rely on wire transfers.
“At the center of the indictment are operatives here in Los Angeles who facilitated the fraud schemes by opening U.S. bank accounts where victims were directed to deposit their money,” Hanna said.
Among the many cases detailed in the sprawling 252-count indictment and complaint was a woman who thought she met a U.S. Army captain stationed in Syria online.
In reality, it was a scammer who asked for financial help to get a bag of diamonds out of the war-torn country.
Hanna said the woman — a recent widow who did not have a lot of money — lost more than $200,000.
On Facebook, an 81-year-old Hawaiian woman thought she met oil rig worker in Belgium.
In reality, it was a scammer who bilked her for $750,000.
There was also an Illinois family who thought they were wiring $135,000 to an escrow company.
In fact, the money went straight into a scammer’s account in LA.
These mass arrests are the culmination of a huge, more than two-year investigation.
Delacourt said more needs to be done, however.
“We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem, and so we continue to educate potential victims,” he said.
Investigators say this scam was run by two Nigerian men in the Los Angeles area with the help of associates back home and in other countries.