Man accused of stealing more than $1.8M from women in romance scam
A New York man has been indicted on multiple charges for allegedly scamming more than $1.8 million from several women he met on 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 a statement. In reality, Counne has never traveled outside the U.S. 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, enticing them with investment opportunities that never existed while using their funds to repay past victims, lure in new ones and fund his lifestyle,” Bragg said.
Counne used the names Nelson Roth and Justin Roth during his alleged scheme, authorities said. Under the aliases, he told the women about investment opportunities that he said were in a “gray area between legal and illegal,” implying that he had inside information on certain occasions, according to Bragg.
Between Dec. 2012 and Jan. 2021, Counne allegedly convinced the women to “invest” with him, Bragg said, noting that during that time, “Counne’s sole source of income for the past eight years was money he swindled.” Counne would ask the women for an initial investment and then, once the money was secured, would continue to ask for more, Bragg’s office said.
Counne explained his need for more money by telling some of the women his accounts were frozen or that his personal funds were tied up in other investments, the district attorney alleged. But, he promised the women they’d be repaid and make a “substantial profit.”
Counne did not invest the money, but instead allegedly used it to make himself seem wealthy to new victims, authorities said. In some cases, it was used to repay previous victims who had figured out they were being scammed, Bragg said.
Counne is facing charges of scheme to defraud in the first degree, grand larceny in the second degree and grand larceny in the third degree.
Around 24,000 people lost about $1 billion to romance scams across the U.S. in 2021, an FBI report shows.
“The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust,” the FBI 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 instance, a woman lost $390,000 in an online crypto dating scam. In another case, a man known as the Tinder Swindler is accused of defrauding victims of about $10 million using a similar scam as the one Counne is accused of.