To ease his loneliness and boredom, Joseph, a retired minister from Maine, went online in search of companionship.
He met a woman named “Joy,” and quickly became deeply infatuated. The virtual relationship continued for five years, even after Joseph remarried and attempted to break it off.
Insisting her life was in danger, “Joy” convinced the minister to travel to South America and transport a package of documents to London for her. During a layover in Spain, he was stopped by security. The package, unbeknownst to him, contained two kilograms of cocaine.
Joseph is now serving six years in a Spanish prison. The minister’s son shared his father’s tragic story with the Senate Committee on Aging, helping bring to light a ruthless scam targeting seniors looking for love.
The victims, most of them elderly, meet their “sweethearts” online and are enlisted to transport packages across borders. The packages, which they are forbidden to open, contain drugs.
The U.S. government knows of 145 Americans who have been arrested overseas as a result of the scam. Maine Senator Susan Collins, the committee’s chair, said, “I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that seniors and their families become aware of their techniques, and take action to protect themselves and their loved ones from these heartless criminals.”
(photo courtesy of Special Committee on Aging, U.S. Senate)
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