THE financially ruined victim of an elaborate and sophisticated online romance scam, who lost about $300,000 in the belief that he was helping a troubled woman overseas, has been found guilty of having possessed and used counterfeit US banknotes posted to him in Launceston.
Geoffrey Keith Turner, 61, had been having problems with his marriage in July 2011 and found the dating website ‘‘BeNaughty.com’’ billed as ‘‘The Best Fun Spot for Playful Singles’’.
The Newnham man met a woman online called ‘‘Raven’’ who claimed to be an aspiring artist from Cotonou, a city in the West African country of Benin.
But she needed Turner’s money to solve her endless problems, which included help to access her sizeable inheritance from the ‘‘Royal House of Treasury’’, in the hope that Turner would receive $720,000 to cancel out his debts.
He used Western Union and other money transfer services to continue sending Raven and her co-scammers his money, including his entire superannuation, two loans and $6600 from the sale of his Holden Rodeo. Turner even persuaded his wife and other family members to send money to the scammers.
Magistrate Reg Marron, in delivering his decision in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Thursday, said scams were widely reported in the media but Turner had been naive.
‘‘The very idea that someone would accept the stories and claims from this woman Raven ... without query or confirmation and they would then liquidate their assets and give their entire wealth ... would be seen by others as madness,’’ Mr Marron said.
He adjourned sentencing to August 11 at 2.15pm.
Turner had received 161 counterfeit US $100 notes, his second batch of fakes from the scammers, and tried to exchange nine of them when he arrived at Melbourne Airport from Launceston on October 30, 2012.