Beware of people on dating apps that offer investment opportunities that are too good to be true.
That’s the message from the New York City District Attorney, who recently filed charges against a lying Lothario who they say defrauded his lovers out of millions.
Nelson Counne, who is also referred to as “Nelson Roth” or “Justin Roth”, was charged by a Manhattan court with coughing up more than $1.8 million from five women through a series of romance and investment scams.
He allegedly told lie after lie to women he falsely claimed to have a romantic interest, enticing them with investment opportunities that never existed, while using their money to repay past victims, lure new ones and his lifestyle,” said the prosecutor. Alvin L. Bragg, Jr.
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Dating for dollars
Counne, 69, met most of his victims through online dating sites, posing as a wealthy retired art dealer and investor with homes in London, Manhattan and the south of France, according to the indictment.
In reality, Counne owns no houses and never travels internationally – he doesn’t even have a passport. His only source of income was the money he stole from his loved ones between 2012 and 2021.
The scam worked like this: After gaining the affection and trust of his victims, Counne convinced many of them to invest with him. He never shared details of his business dealings, claiming the investments were in a “gray area between legal and illegal” and that he had access to inside information.
Some of his bogus investments included Alibaba and a start-up allegedly run by a former Google executive, which allegedly offered an online lottery that potential students could pay to participate and win tuition.
“Most of the victims were hesitant at first, but Counne persisted until they all agreed to invest,” said a press release from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
A Ponzi scheme
The prosecutor alleges that Counne carried out a classic Ponzi scheme, using the money from one of his brands to pay for another. This enabled him to appear rich to new victims and to repay previous victims who suspected his fraud.
Counne is now charged with first-degree fraud, second-degree grand larceny, and third-degree grand larceny.
This kind of romance scam is not uncommon. In 2021, some 24,000 victims reported losing about $1 billion to romance scams, according to the FBI.