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She thought it was love. It was a $718,000 fraud

For most of us, the cost of a misplaced romance is difficult to measure.

But for a local woman, a highly paid, white-collar professional in her late 50s, the price tag amounted to real dollars and cents.

And by the time the relationship was over, she was out more $718,000.

On Thursday, two years later, Adams Amen, one of the men behind the online fraud, appeared in Buffalo federal court and admitted his role in a far-reaching scam that targeted her and other people on MillionaireMatch.com.

"The victim thought she was in a romantic online relationship," Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott S. Allen Jr. said Thursday.

In reality, she was the victim of a romance scam, a crime investigators say is on the rise here and across the country.

Allen said the woman thought she was communicating with Marvin Roecker, a self-described millionaire who over the course of several months wooed her with intimate phone calls, romantic texts and personal online messages.

"Over time, she developed a romantic online bond with Marvin," Allen told U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

And then came Roecker's request for money.

He told her, according to court papers, that he was in the midst of a $7 million deal to sell dried cocoa beans to Kraft Heinz, but he needed extra cash to pay for the shipping and insurance.

When he asked his new friend for help, he promised to repay her, plus interest. He also promised a romantic relationship.

Allen said Roecker's online profile was a fake and included a photo that belonged to someone else.

"The image actually depicted a realtor from Texas, who was not Marvin Roecker," Allen told Arcara.

An excerpt from the criminal complaint against Adams Amen.

No one is certain who was behind the Roecker persona, but two men, Amen and Jason Osei Bonsu, both citizens of Ghana, were charged with taking part in the scam.

On Thursday, Amen's lawyer said his client knew he was involved in a fraud but was unaware it was a romance scam.

"He didn't know anything about that," said Buffalo defense attorney Paul G. Dell.

Amen pleaded guilty to a conspiracy and fraud charge Thursday and will face a recommended sentence of up to 51 months in prison. He also faces more than $900,000 in restitution and possible deportation.

Prosecutors said the local woman who was victimized by Amen and Bonsu is not the only who fell victim to the fraud.

In court papers, they claim the two men cheated a man in South Dakota out of $72,500 as part of a separate romance scam.

The man was apparently told his money would pay for shipping and insurance costs associated with an inheritance, including a large quantity of gold.

In the Roecker scam, the woman initially wired him $65,000, the first of five payments, in March of 2016. She made her final wire transfer in April, this time for $465,000 in cash.

The FBI says Roecker, as part of his deal with the woman, agreed to fly to the United States to be with her once his cocoa beans were shipped, and he provided an airline itinerary indicating when he would arrive in Buffalo.

He never did come here, and Amen and Bonsu were later arrested.

Romance fraud, according to the agency, is on the rise and agents points to data indicatingĀ there were 14,546 victims who lost $219 million in 2016.

More often than not, the victims are women older than 50, often widowed or divorced, and frequently savvy about computers and social media.

Investigators said Ghana, where Amen and Bonsu reside, is a hotbed of romance scammers.

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