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The Perfect Scam

 

Love Online Leads to International Lockup

When Joy asked Bryon to deliver real estate papers, he had no idea he was being used in an elaborate plot to smuggle drugs.

illustration of passport locked behind bars

AARP

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Bryon, a retired pastor, thought he’d met his dream girl online. For five years he conversed over the internet with Joy, who claimed to live in London. So when Joy asked Bryon to transport real estate papers, he had no idea he was being used in an elaborate plot to smuggle drugs. Bryon is one of hundreds of Americans over the age of 60 who were conned into unwittingly serving as drug mules in what the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging calls one of the worst scams it has uncovered.

Quote graphic from the perfect scam podcast

TIPS:  If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam or would like to report fraud call The Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360Anyone can become the victim of a scam, it’s important to be vigilant and know your vulnerabilities. For instance, if you are looking for a job you are more vulnerable to a work-at-home scam.

[00:00:00] Will Johnson: Coming up this week on AARP - The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:04] It's a group of people that are easily preyed upon. It's a terrible crime, uh these individuals, these seniors have worked their life to uh, have the golden years.

[00:00:14] There's people abroad you know targeting our seniors every day. And there's people being caught every day.

[00:00:22] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:00:23] Will Johnson: For AARP - The Perfect Scam podcast, I'm your host, Will Johnson, and I am here once again with my cohost, the AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale. Frank, we meet again.

[00:00:34] Frank Abagnale: Yes, we are, and I'm glad to be back.

[00:00:36] Will Johnson: Thanks for being here. You know we haven't read just a good old fashioned scam email on, on the show, and I thought I, I could read a little bit of one and just get your feedback. I almost want you to hit a buzzer every time you hear something uh, but we don't have a buzzer, so we'll just talk about it. But um, this is one my sister got, and she sent it to me. "Good evening to you. My name is Moren Jeffson from London, England." I'm going to pause... so first of all, the names always are, are, seem to be made up. So this is Moren Jeffson. "I school and work as a fashion designer for part-time job after my school. I'm the only child of my parents. My father died on a fatal auto accident on the way to see my sick mother at the hospital. She also died when she heard about the death of my father, and the same day at the hospital. Terrible story. Before the death of my father, he had willed part of his real estate business, gas stations, and total sum of 50 million, 700 thousand pounds sterling." Are you following along, here?

[00:01:29] Frank Abagnale: Yeah.

[00:01:08] Will Johnson: All right. "Today I'm 26 years old. I have no access to the money until I'm 30 years old, so I contact you to stand as my husband, to claim this fund on my behalf. Please get back to me as to know how you will be remunerated as I will part with 20% of the total sum," and it goes on and on.

[00:01:47] Frank Abagnale: Obviously the, the ultimate goal here was, I contact her, and then eventually she says, well I'll send you this money but I need to wire it to your bank account, what's your banking information, uh that requires me to have your Social Security number for the wire transfer. Uh, obviously trying to get information. So it's just a phishing email, as those 5,000 a day every day in the United States, and phishing for information and to try and get you to respond. Um, again, people need to be very careful. Phishing emails, they've gotten very sophisticated.

[00:02:20] Will Johnson: Right, and this one I, I laugh about a little bit because of the name and the, the writing is not great at all, um, but go ahead.

[00:02:29] Frank Abagnale: But the ones I see now, uh, and especially in the last few months, "Hi Karen, great having lunch with you today. We need to do that more often. I hope you and your husband, Robert, have a great time with the kids at Disney World this week. When you get back, call me and we'll do lunch again. By the way, I saw this on YouTube and I thought you'd find it interesting. Here's the link, see you soon. Barbara." All of that information comes from the social media. She already said her name, she said they were going to lunch together, she knows the husband's name's on her social media site or Facebook. They know they were going to Disney World. People send these phishing emails now with tremendous amount of credibility in them that you don't even bother to think twice that it's not the person that you really believe it is. I've seen some from the CEO of a company to the Chief Financial Officer saying, "Had a great dinner at your home last night with you and your wife, Susan. My wife, Karen and I, really enjoyed ourselves. We need to do that again soon. As you know, I'm on my way to Nashville today for a conference. I'll be gone this week. I meant to mention to you last night to wire $35,000 to this charity, would you please see that it gets done today.

[00:03:37] Will Johnson: By the way.

[00:03:37] Frank Abagnale: Yeah. Again, that was all on social media so they take that data and use that to build credibility in sending you an email, rather than this done by an amateur who's just simply sending out emails, hoping that someone will respond. And also, keep in mind that when they send these phishing emails, unlike Nigerian letters years ago when they sent out 20 or 30,000 at a time, they're sending out millions of these, and they're only looking for 1/10th of 1 percent to maybe respond to that, that email.

[00:04:07] Will Johnson: But the work they've done on their end, if it has all that specific information is to go out and gather that specific information. It's time consuming, but I guess somebody has the time.

[00:04:15] Frank Abagnale: And those ones are much more effective because they have so much more credibility than this, which is really saying nothing about nothing, and just sending an email to someone hoping they'll respond.

[00:04:24] Will Johnson: The cost of sending out an email to...

[00:04:27] Frank Abagnale: Is nothing.

[00:04:27] Will Johnson: Is nothing.

[00:04:27] Frank Abagnale: Nothing.

[00:04:28] Will Johnson: Okay, we're going to shift gears and tell our listeners the story of Joseph Brian Martin. He is one of hundreds of individuals who have fallen victim to what U.S. Senator Susan Collins has called one of the worst scams her committee has uncovered.

[00:04:41] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:04:42] In the place they call Vacationland, we measure time by how well you spend it.

[00:04:48] Will Johnson: Vacationland, Maine. It's a beautiful place to live and visit. It's also a place where you can get scammed just like almost anywhere in the United States or around the world. Sheriff Kevin Joyce is in his 8th year of Sheriff of Cumberland County, Maine; an area roughly 880 square miles that runs from the coast to the mountains. Sheriff Joyce is well aware that with a large aging population scammers are targeting seniors in Maine.

[00:05:11] Sheriff Joyce: The seniors are more vulnerable. Uh, they're more likely to answer the phone in the daytime because they're not at work. These clowns work wherever they are, um, whether they're in the United States or in another country, you know, can sit in a room and, and uh separate them from money, so a lot of people have lost everything they've owned because of something they thought was happening that needed their uh monetary contribution. Or, or they thought they hit the lottery and they were going to be all set for life, and a lot of people have been wiped out.

[00:05:41] Will Johnson: The cost of scams to Mainers is high, and almost impossible to put a price on.

[00:05:45] Sheriff Joyce: Yeah, I would think that the number would be staggering. I mean I, I, I wouldn't even begin to guess, um, what that dollar figure is, but I bet it's staggering.

[00:05:55] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:05:58] Will Johnson: In the world of scams, there might be none as shocking as the one we're going to tell you about next and how it almost totally destroyed the life of an older man living in Dresden, Maine, two counties away from Sheriff Joyce's jurisdiction. At its core, it's a romance scam, a scam built on trust and connection.

[00:06:15] Sheriff Joyce: Well the dating scams, you know, they say love if blind. You know, oftentimes you can portray yourself to be somebody you really aren't, and uh, as long as you don't have to come out behind the veil, um, pretty much being a super manipulator.

[00:06:29] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:06:29] Will Johnson: Joseph Brian Martin, who goes by Brian also knows firsthand about romance scams. A retired pastor who's had a string of marriages throughout his life, he's an affable guy who likes adventure and maybe that played into the excitement he felt when he first got to know a woman named Joy in a Yahoo chat room.

[00:06:46] Joseph Brian Martin: I met Joy over the internet about six years ago and she was from London with a US Passport and had gone to Nigeria to do art--, native artwork. She's an artist, and we communicated almost every day.

[00:07:03] Will Johnson: I, I would assume that if you were chatting every day that this, did Joy seem like a romantic interest, potentially down the road or, or just someone fun to talk to?

[00:07:11] Joseph Brian Martin: Yes, yeah. That certainly was the case.

[00:07:14] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:07:15] Will Johnson: So Brian claims he sent a little bit of money to Joy over the course of 4 or 5 years, but she kept mentioning something else, that he was not willing to do.

[00:07:24] Joseph Brian Martin: In the course of time, I think after the first year or so, she brought up the subject of her parents having lived in Quito, Ecuador, had extensive real estate there. And they had died and the legal work was still sitting there and she asked me if I would be willing to go to Quito, Ecuador, pick up these papers and bring them to London? I turned her down for probably two more years and then in the last year, I agreed to go. They were going to pay all my expenses. You know, I really felt obligated to, to do something because they wanted out of Nigeria, and they needed the money from this uh real estate

[00:08:07] Will Johnson: And were you reluctant to go, it sounds like you cut her off, you know, you said no thanks for a few years, but eventually you, you agreed to do it. What made you change your mind?

[00:08:16] Joseph Brian Martin: Well, I just felt I owed her something. I mean we knew each other fairly well. I had no reason not to go other than I don't like to travel anymore at my age, but uh, it was just to, to fulfill a promise that I had made to help her.

[00:08:32] Will Johnson: And you were newly married. Did your new wife know about this? I mean she obviously knew you were heading out of town.

[00:08:38] Joseph Brian Martin: Yeah, I'd only been married to my wife, at the time, uh, for about a year, and she really didn't want me to go, but she didn't insist that I shouldn't, so I didn't realize it was a big thing to her, but anyhow.

[00:08:51] Will Johnson: How much did she, were you promised uh, from the whole trip with the delivery of documents?

[00:08:58] Joseph Brian Martin: There was, there wasn't an amount ever mentioned, and I did it was a favor. I didn't, except I didn't have money, so I said they had to pay the expenses, yeah, it was never about money. I'm, I'm not a money greed type person, so I do things out of favors and fulfilling promises.

[00:09:16] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:09:18] Will Johnson: Brian gets his instructions from Joy. He is to take a flight to Lima, Peru, and meet up with Joy's attorney there, a guy named James.

[00:09:26] Joseph Brian Martin: Originally it was to have been Quito, but then the guy was supposedly traveling and I'd meet him up in Lima, Peru, so that's where I ended up going. It took me a week of waiting before they finally came through with a package. The last night I, I got a call from this James telling me to go out in the street and holler, um, I forget what the name was, I thought it was James, too, but they weren't both James. Anyway, so I went out on the street hollering this guy's name out, and he comes up riding on a bicycle carrying this package and uh went up to my room, got the package and sent him on his way. I did ask him, because they were sealed, I asked him what if the authorities wanted to inspect them, and he says, oh, that's okay, they can open them. So you know again, I had no reason to suspect there would be a reason why they shouldn't open these packages.

[00:10:22] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:10:22] Will Johnson: Brian heads to the airport. He's in a wheelchair due to some back issues, he's actually scheduled for spine surgery when he gets home. He goes through security in Lima with no problem and heads to London via Madrid, Spain.

[00:10:35] Joseph Brian Martin: Uh, I got off out of Madrid, got in a wheelchair and they pushed me to the checkout gate and that's where they had evidently scanned these packages and, and found that, you know there was something in them.

[00:10:47] Will Johnson: That something turns out to be 1.8 kilos of cocaine hidden away inside the packages in hollowed out books.

[00:10:55] Joseph Brian Martin: First of all I, I just drew in a deep breath. I couldn't believe it, then I began to deny that I knew it, and they didn't believe a word of that, I guess they hear it all the time.

[00:11:04] Will Johnson: Brian is eventually sentenced to six years and one day in a Spanish prison, so here's this elderly man from Maine who is unwittingly carrying cocaine into Spain. He needs surgery on his back, he doesn't speak a word of Spanish, and now he's looking at the next phase of his life behind bars in a foreign country.

[00:11:21] Joseph Brian Martin: I actually served in two separate prisons, both in Madrid, fortunately enough I was able to stay in the infirmary the entire 11 months, so I had a much better situation than if I was in the common population.

[00:11:34] Will Johnson: Describe what, if you can, what that was like. I don't think a lot of people could imagine that kind of scenario feeling you know so far away, disconnected from people that you know and, and love.

[00:11:45] Joseph Brian Martin: I was just so devastated. I couldn't believe that I was involved in something like this. There was one or two people all the time that did speak English some in the prison, so I wasn't totally isolated, but pretty much so.

[00:12:00] Will Johnson: And could you like watch TV in there?

[00:12:02]Joseph Brian Martin: Yeah, we had our own TV, but again, that would be all in Spanish, so I, I read a book almost every day for the 11 months, so I don't even want to read anymore.

[00:12:13] Will Johnson: Well, and so uh you were in the infirmary, but as it looked to you from where you sat, you were going to be there for five, six more years.

[00:12:22] Joseph Brian Martin: Six years, one day.

[00:12:24] Will Johnson: Brian's only lifeline was his son, Andy Martin, living with his new wife in Las Vegas. Brian's other kids haven't talked to him in years. Andy was, in fact, estranged from his father for over a decade before his father was arrested.

[00:12:37] Joseph Brian Martin: If it wasn't for my son, Andrew, who I called from the prison almost every day, I think I would have gone crazy.

[00:12:44] Will Johnson: Yeah.

[00:12:45] Joseph Brian Martin: My first letter from my wife while I was in prison, she said she couldn't handle this, and she wanted a divorce.

[00:12:52] Will Johnson: And, I mean that must have been sort of just let the, let the wind out of you, I imagine if you're sitting there.

[00:12:58] Joseph Brian Martin: Yes.

[00:12:59] Will Johnson: Brian's son, Andy Martin tell us what he came to learn about his father's relationship with the woman named Joy.

[00:13:05] Andy Martin: I think he said he met her on some Yahoo chat site or something like that.

[00:13:09] Will Johnson: Do you think he was looking for a relationship at the time or just...

[00:13:11] Andy Martin: Yeah, no, I think he was, you know and she was a much younger person, um, which I thought was kind of creepy, but to each their own, I guess.

[00:13:19] Will Johnson: So over the 2010 to 2015 roughly, he was, he was getting scammed. He was sending money off and do you know how much he was sending or how much he sent altogether?

[00:13:30] Andy Martin: Well it was into the tens of thousands, not that he made much, but he sent virtually everything that he could spare.

[00:13:35] Will Johnson: That figure is a little different from what Brian tells us he sent her. An amount of several hundred dollars over the course of the relationship, but whatever the amount, Brian eventually agreed to deliver real estate documents to London from Peru.

[00:13:48] Will Johnson: So the, the promise was that, or the deal was that he would take some real estate documents from South America to London, he would meet Joy and then come back home.

[00:13:59] Andy Martin: Correct, and he'd be paid handsomely for doing that.

[00:14:02] Will Johnson: And paid handsomely? Do you have any idea how much he offered?

[00:14:04] Andy Martin: He didn't have a firm number, but he was led to believe it'd be in the, you know, about 50,000 or more.

[00:14:09] Will Johnson: And why couldn't, why couldn't, did your dad ask why the documents couldn't be mailed?

[00:14:14] Andy Martin: No, that's what I asked him too. I said, have you ever heard of FedEx, you know, come on.

[00:14:18] Will Johnson: Yeah. Could have avoided a lot of trouble down the road.

[00:14:21] Andy Martin: I think he just actually wanted to meet her, and I think he was just infatuated with her after this secure relationship.

[00:14:26] Will Johnson: When all this went down, Andy Martin wasn't talking to his father, and he hadn't for over a decade until he got a phone call from the US Embassy in Spain.

[00:14:34] Andy Martin: Yeah, I believe it was a Sunday morning or a Saturday morning, and when I heard the story, I'm like, you're kidding me. This is, this is some kind of joke, isn't it? As far as I know, he's in Maine. He just got married. Why would he be in Spain smuggling cocaine?

[00:14:47] Will Johnson: What prompted you to get involved at that point, given the fact that you hadn't seen him or talked to him in quite a while.

[00:14:53] Andy Martin: If it were me and I did something stupid, I would hope one of my sons would step up and at least make my life comfortable while I'm over here, so that was really my goal, is just to kind of show him some mercy and some grace, if you will.

[00:15:05] Will Johnson: So Andy goes to work on his dad's case, even after years and years of not seeing or talking to him.

[00:15:11] Andy Martin: Now we were able to retain an attorney for him, you know we quickly got access to his social security funds, and were able to start, you know retain a lawyer for him and you know, pay him over time.

[00:15:22] Will Johnson: Did you travel to Spain?

[00:15:23] Andy Martin: Yeah we did. We were actually going to go to Europe on a honey--, on a late honeymoon. We were in Paris and we took a day and shot down to Madrid to see him. That's the first time I'd seen him in probably 10 years, maybe 12 years.

[00:15:34] Will Johnson: And so, was he still in a wheelchair when you saw him?

[00:15:37] Andy Martin: Um, he was walking with like a walker, you know he'd be shuffling along and he was wearing, um, you could wear any clothes you want, so he had like a bathrobe on and, and some slippers.

[00:15:47] Will Johnson: So, he's in jail, you're, you visit him, you hope to make his life more comfortable, um, you're treating him in a way that maybe he hasn't treated other members of your family.

[00:15:57] Andy Martin: Correct. Yeah.

[00:16:00] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:16:02] Will Johnson: It's around this time that the story takes another turn. Andy gets a call from the office of Maine Senator Susan Collins, and he's suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

[00:16:12] Andy Martin: She chairs a committee, (inaudible) the Aging, the elderly. They were actually looking into this, into this issue and had a hearing on it, wanted to hold a hearing on it, so they invited me to come to DC to tell his story.

[00:16:24] Will Johnson: And what were you testifying then? Were you just simply telling the story of what had happened to your father, that he'd been the victim of a scam, and now he was in jail in Spain?

[00:16:31] Andy Martin: Correct, and I, you know, I have a prepared written testimony that, you know, I, I sent them in advance, and that they made available to the media and then um, you know, they asked me a bunch of questions after.

[00:16:41] Will Johnson: And what did they go about doing to get him out?

[00:16:43] Andy Martin: They wrote a letter to the then Secretary of State, uh John Kerry, telling him the story and then he sent a letter to uh the Spanish you know counterpart over there in Spain.

[00:16:52] Will Johnson: So John Kerry, Susan Collins, you've got some pretty high profile people on your dad's side.

[00:16:58] Andy Martin: I think just the fact that the Senate got involved and our State Department actually got involved, um, that along with his lawyer, um, his lawyer using that information, or sharing the letters, you know, with the judge and, and the fact that he's 77, 78 years old and not really a threat to Spanish society. He was in for 11 months, and so he came home, I want to say around May or June of uh 2016, so a year later.

[00:17:26] Will Johnson: And what did he say to you or can you describe at all what it was like for him to come back home and obviously he had lost a lot, his, his new wife had decided to end the marriage, but he was, he had his freedom.

[00:17:41] Andy Martin: Yeah, he lost everything that he had, all of his possessions were gone other than the clothes, the clothes that he actually had with him, and um, you know he had no place to go so he flew to Vegas to stay with us until he could sort things out.

[00:17:53] Will Johnson: So your dad has returned to the United States. He comes to Vegas where you are, uh he can now add to his long list of various roles throughout the years; pastor, uh, and, and some other occupations, drug mule unwittingly so.

[00:18:09] Andy Martin: Exactly. Yeah. Jack of all trades. Catch me if you can.

[00:18:15] Will Johnson: It amazes me that this is actually a thing. I mean people being paid to be drug mules has been around for--, forever, I assume for, for going back many years, but, but the idea of tricking someone into carrying something into another country, and the idea of doing it after a five year online relationship where you're reeling someone in and then uh, saying hey, I've just got this one last thing for you to do. I mean that's a long, that's a big investment to put into somebody.

[00:18:40] Andy Martin: Well, you know what I think it was, I think this is how they do it, is they just, they're happy with the little romance scam, and send me 100 bucks here and there, you know, as long as that's going to continue, but the minute he was going to break it off because he got remarried, then they brought up this thing they had talked about earlier, and figured they'd get one more thing out of him, one big score from him.

[00:19:00] Will Johnson: But what do you think is there, I mean wouldn't that seem like the ultimate goal that they are looking for people to, to smuggle drugs?

[00:19:07] Andy Martin: Well, from what I learned a lot of times, um, you know, they have a pigeon, someone they set up who's supposed to get busted. Well, you know, 10 other people on the same flight get through. They're using seniors more and more, cause they seem less likely to be a drug mule.

[00:19:21] Will Johnson: The scams come in all shapes, sizes. This is one that uh, you know you, you learn not to, or we caution people not to answer emails, pick up the phone, also don't take any packages into another country for someone.

[00:19:37] Andy Martin: Yes. Especially if you're not going to look at them first.

[00:19:40] Will Johnson: Did Joy drop off the radar after all this?

[00:19:42] Andy Martin: Well, now you're reaching a new topic, so since he's been back, you know I thought he had learned his lesson, but he's right back into it again.

[00:19:50] Will Johnson: Right back into online relationships?

[00:19:52] Andy Martin: And sending money to people overseas.

[00:19:54] Will Johnson: Oh, come on.

[00:19:54] Andy Martin: I kid you not. It's, it's, it's like a gambling addiction, that's the best I can figure, so he's always telling me about, oh, I've got this new girlfriend, and here's her picture and some beautiful young blonde in her 20s, you know, on his refrigerator, and I'm like, Dad, a) she's not real, and b) she would never be interested in you. You're 79 years old. You know, and then after that relationship goes on for 4 or 5 or 6 months, and you know, he can't send her any more money or she doesn't come or you know, then someone else reaches out to him. So I just think it's the same people using different emails, just reinventing themselves over and over and over.

[00:20:29] Will Johnson: It kind of speaks to this, to the idea of fantasy playing such a big role or taking over our lives or our minds in a way or some people's lives and minds that it's hard to distinguish between what, what might be real and is certainly not real.

[00:20:43] Andy Martin: Yeah.

[00:20:43] Will Johnson: These people are offering him a life that, that is probably unattainable.

[00:20:48] Andy Martin: Yeah. One that he never had that he wished he had had, you know.

[00:20:52] Andy Martin: What are your thoughts about your father today? I know it's been, it sounds like a roller coaster.

[00:20:55] Andy Martin: I'm just happy he's not, you know, spending his last days in Spain and dying alone in a foreign country. I mean that, that was like the thing that bothered me the most about his situation. I wanted to get him home.

[00:21:08] Will Johnson: For his part, Joseph Brian Martin, after everything, after getting busted for smuggling cocaine and spending 11 months in a Spanish prison, he doesn't seem able to accept the idea that Joy is most likely not who she says she is.

[00:21:22] Will Johnson: Do you believe that she exists, that she is the person she claims to be.

[00:21:27] Joseph Brian Martin: Well, again, I'm a fool when it comes to believing people. I don't want to live in a world where you cannot trust one another, and so I did take it from time to time, but I really, because again, five years is a lot of communicating, and we got to know an awful lot about each other, and I believed her, had no reason not to.

[00:21:51] Will Johnson: Are you wary to connect with people online now, or are you still connecting and just being a little more careful or how's that going?

[00:21:59] Joseph Brian Martin: I think I, I am more careful, but I'm still on the internet, and I still trust people, but I refuse to go out of the country or do anything approaching what I went through again.

[00:22:11] Will Johnson: Don't, don't uh, agree to take any more real estate documents anywhere, right?

[00:22:16] Joseph Brian Martin: Absolutely not.

[00:22:20] Will Johnson: And I'm back with the AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale. Senior drug mules. I mean I've heard about drug mules, but the idea of someone who's older, elderly, senior, uh, taking drugs for someone across the border unwittingly is, is terrible.

[00:22:37] Frank Abagnale: One of the things that always surprises me about this is again, I travel constantly all over the world. Every country I go to, when I get ready to leave that country and go through their customs and then check in at the ticket counter, I am asked, "Did anyone ask you to carry anything onboard this plane? Did you pack your own bags? Do you know the things that are in your bag?" When you leave the United States, you're not asked any questions. You see nobody, you just get on the plane, show your passport, and off you go. So I could see where someone would say, transport this for me knowing that one, there's no risk leaving the US, no one's going to ask you what's in your bag, no one's going to look at your bag, and then it's just a question, are someone who looks very elderly, in a wheelchair, or just somebody who looks very respectable, are they actually going to stop them and scan them, or look to see in their bag? They're hoping they're going to go through nothing to declare, and walk right through and have the stuff in it, which works many times, but sometimes people get caught and this way the criminal's not taking the heat, the person who took it is taking the heat.

[00:23:44] Will Johnson: Brian Martin, nice enough sounding guy has lived an interesting life, uh he's been married a few times, and then he takes off on this, this adventure although it sounds like he's had plenty of adventures in the past, too, but at its core, like other stories, this is somewhat of a, or it is a romance scam. He clearly felt a connection and was very attached to the person, this person who was asking him to go on this, this journey.

[00:24:11] Frank Abagnale: She had built up the credibility with him, uh instead of somebody approaching you and just saying, I'll pay you $5,000 if you take this through customs, uh, and that they're doing it obviously for the money and they realize there's something in it, there's a risk associated with it, and they're hoping they don't get caught. Um, she built up a relationship with him, so she was just asking him to do it for her as a favor, and of course, she'd compensate his travel probably and maybe give him some money for doing it, so he was doing it more out of kindness to her, but again, she was taking a risk that he wouldn't be stopped and probably, in most cases, he wouldn't have. It was just, he happened to be, unfortunately, it's checked.

[00:24:48] Will Johnson: And I have to ask. Do you think this was always Joy's end game to get him to take cocaine or, or just part of the scam?

[00:24:56] Frank Abagnale: No, I think Joy just had something going on with him, who knows what, you know, this just was an opportunity that came up for Joy and said I know the right person to ask to do this. It could have been a simple matter of that. The opportunity came to her and then she said, who do I know that could do this?

[00:25:11] Will Johnson: Well there's a little disconnect with Andy saying he was offered quite a bit of money, but he thought it was real estate documents, he didn't say it was for...

[00:25:18] Frank Abagnale: Right, and he was doing it more for the girl. I don't think the money was the issue, I think it was the girl.

[00:25:22] Will Johnson: That's what his father said, that's what everybody seems to think. It's an interesting idea, if not somewhat tragic that it's about this fantasy of a life that maybe he's, he's missed the boat on.

[00:25:31] Frank Abagnale: But can we bring up the red flag again?

[00:25:33] Will Johnson: Please bring up the red flag.

[00:25:33] Frank Abagnale: Here I have this relationship with someone, it's great, we're over the phone, we're over the internet. I think this girl's interested in me though I never met her. I send her money to come see me, but she didn't come, but I still have this great relationship. And then boom, would you take these documents for me, they're from out of the country and then bring them to another country? That's the red flag. Again, asking you to do something now that's out of the ordinary, that's where that red flag should have lit up.

[00:25:59] Will Johnson: All right. Well, thanks once again to the AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale for being here.

[00:26:04] Frank Abagnale: Thanks Will.

[00:26:04] Will Johnson: For more information and resources on how to protect yourself or a loved one from becoming a victim of a scam, you can visit AARP's Fraud Watch Network website, AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork, and as always, thanks to my team of scam busters here at AARP; Julie Getz, Brook Ellis, Julio Gonzales, and Steve Bartlett. For AARP - The Perfect Scam, I'm Will Johnson.

END OF TRANSCRIPT

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