New York man accused of stealing more than $1.8 million from women in a romance scam

A New York man has been indicted on multiple charges for allegedly defrauding more than $1.8 million from several women he met through dating apps, prosecutors said Monday.

Nelson Counne, 69, told at least five women that he was a wealthy retired art dealer and investor with homes in New York City, London and France, Manhattan District Attorney Alving Bragg said in one statement. Counne has never actually traveled outside the US and does not have a passport, the district attorney alleged.

“He allegedly fed lie after lie to women he falsely claimed to have a romantic interest in, luring them with investment opportunities that never existed while using their funds to pay off previous victims, attract new and fund their lifestyle,” Bragg said.

Counne used the names Nelson Roth and Justin Roth during his alleged scheme, authorities said. Under aliases, he told the women about investment opportunities he said were in a “gray area between legal and illegal,” implying he had inside information on certain occasions, according to Bragg.

Between December 2012 and January 2021, Counne allegedly convinced the women to “invest” with him, Bragg said, noting that during that time, “Counne’s only source of income for the last eight years was the money he swindled.” Counne would ask the women for an initial investment and then, once the money was secured, continue to ask for more, Bragg’s office said.

Counne explained his need for more money by telling some of the women that their accounts were frozen or that their personal funds were tied up in other investments, the district attorney alleged. But, he promised the women that they would be paid and make a “substantial profit”.

Counne did not invest the money, but allegedly used it to make himself look rich to new victims, authorities said. In some cases, it was used to pay back previous victims who had discovered they were being scammed, Bragg said.

Counne faces charges of scheme to defraud in the first degree, grand larceny in the second degree and grand larceny in the third degree.

About 24,000 people lost about $1 billion to romance scams in the United States in 2021, an FBI report shows.

“The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as soon as possible, to endear himself to the victim and gain trust,” he said. F.B.I said on a resource page. “Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money.”

In one recent case, a woman lost $390,000 online crypto dating scam. In another case, a man known as Tinder scammer is accused of defrauding victims of about $10 million in a scam similar to the one Counne is accused of.

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