Archive for the 'Romantic Deception' Category

Dirty John

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted! There just hasn’t been a lot of interesting activity to post about…until now. I’m very excited to post my feedback on a new podcast called Dirty John. The podcast, available through iTunes, outlines the real life story of Debra Newell’s encounter with a predator named John Meehan. The seven-part series covers her life with Meehan from start to finish. It’s one of the most interesting cases of romantic deception I’ve read about in a long time. The story is also available on Bravo. I haven’t watched the series, but I’m sure it’s every bit as good as the podcast. Or check out the Twitter feed about the story here.

Teenagers can also be victims of romantic deception

Over the last couple months I’ve been asked to investigate three cases involving teenagers or young adults. In one case, the parents were concerned about a boy their daughter was dating. They wanted to be sure he was all that he claimed to be. My investigation indicated that he may have slightly embellished his education, but on all other accounts he had been honest.

This past weekend I was contacted by another parent who was concerned about a girl her son had met on the Internet. The relationship had been going on for well over three years despite the fact that the two had never met in person. The girl was slated to visit three years ago and had cancelled. The boy, quite smitten by her, purchased a ring and had his mother post it for him.

Fast forward three years, and the girl is again due to visit. The mother, concerned, provided what information she knew about the girl. It wasn’t much, but a couple of red flags immediately went up. The young lady claimed to be a “Victoria Secret model” and the ring was mailed to a PO box, not a street address. She emailed me an image of a stunning young woman she believed to be the girl.

I ran the image through a reverse image search and quickly identified it as one easily available on the Internet. Of course the image name, Hotties (12).jpg, was highly suspicious and should have been an immediate indicator that it likely was not the girl corresponding with her son.

As an investigator, I’m trained to look for things that don’t add up. The PO box was suspicious, but the fact that the boy was not connected to the girl on Facebook was even more telling. Although I know they exist, I don’t personally know any 17-20 year olds who aren’t on Facebook. I could see that the boy had not “friended” the girl. Teenagers live out their lives on Facebook and the boy was no exception. How was it possible that he was not connected to the girl? What Victoria Secret model doesn’t plaster their image all over the Internet? Models make their living by being highly connected – and highly visible.

Once I got started with the investigation, it didn’t take me long to find the girl. She did indeed have a PO box in the town that she claimed to live in. She also had a Facebook profile, and a Facebook photo. I can tell you that she would never qualify as a Victoria Secret model on a variety of fronts.

The boy, once confronted with the truth, decided that he didn’t care what the girl looked like. That was admirable, however, I hope that he will soon realize that a relationship built on deceit is likely not going to work.

Earlier this year I worked on another case involving the son of two American actors. This story was similar. The boy had fallen for a girl he met over the Internet. This girl claimed to come from a wealthy family who lived in Poland. Their relationship progressed as much as any relationship could over the Internet until the day she declared that she had been beaten by thugs and was fighting for her life in the hospital.

By the time the parents contacted me, the boy was an emotional mess, sick with worry over someone he cared deeply about. The parents tried their best to intercede and contact the girl’s family. The only problem, they were not sure exactly who the girl was. All they had to go on was scant information provided by the girl herself.

The web of deceit she created was elaborate. She had set up several fake Facebook profiles for herself, two brothers, and for her father. Her Facebook profile, set to private, was immediately suspicious. Her profile photo showed a girl and boy, but neither faced the camera. None of her “friends” were visible. Ditto for the brother’s Facebook profile. The father’s profile, also set to private, had a grainy photo of a man about the appropriate age, but no more identifying information.

The other brother did have an image on his Facebook page that looked like it had been taken by a professional photographer. I ran that image through a reverse image search and it immediately identified the young man – not as her brother from Poland – but as a relatively well-known band member in England. The name certainly didn’t match the name of the individual on the profile she (as we now know) set up herself.

Her tangled web of deceit was littered with flaws. One of the first indicators that the girl might be a fraud was when I Googled the Polish surname. It didn’t exist! Finally she made a call to the young man from her cell phone…a number preceded by a country code. The parents, and the boy, were thrown off by the unusual looking number that appeared on the caller id. It didn’t take me more than a minute to figure out that the call came from a cell phone registered in England, not Poland.

Once confronted with the information I found, the girl broke down and admitted her deceit. Oddly, the girl’s parents were both police officers in England who dealt with Internet fraud.

For a great documentary on the pitfalls of cyber romance, check out Catfish. It’s a fascinating true-life tale of how a young man gets caught up in a twisted online love affair. You’ll never believe the ending…or maybe you will!