FRESNO, Calif. - Fresno police have a warning after an on-online romance scam surfaced with ties to the Valley.
Police say a scammer began talking to the victim through Christian Mingle and directed her to wire thousands of dollars to Fresno.
The scammer told the victim he was in Mexico and needed the money to get into the U.S.
It's a scam that targets lonely singles in the later stages of life and Fresno police said it's a problem not just here in Fresno, but everywhere.
Fresno police said a 78-year-old Texas woman fell in love with a man claiming to be Jonathan Ricardo who she met on dating website, Christian Mingle. Soon after, the two began texting and took it a step further.
"The suspect told her he wanted to meet with her but was currently working on an oil rig in Mexico and requested she send money to him and said he would pay her back once he was here in the United States," said Fresno Police Detective Caleb Janca.
Police said the woman agreed and wired $16,200 to several places including a business on East Sussex in Fresno.
Police said Ricardo told the victim, the addresses were tied in with his work and the money would make its way to him so he could cross the border and pay for transportation.
"From what we're looking at, it's being sent all over the place, but a lot of it is ending up in Nigeria," said Detective Janca.
Detective Janca said they are now trying to track the money and find out the involvement of the person on the receiving end here in Fresno. Police say a lot of times, the money is wired to a middleman.
"You'll recruit people here on the United States through their own naivety or loneliness, they'll be taken advantage of, they'll be asked to layer the money, that money will be moved to another account, then another account," said Detective Janca.
The money eventually making its way into the pockets of the scammer. Police now warning the public to beware.
"Especially if you have elderly parents and they're online talking to people. Be cognizant of it, try to find out who they're talking to, make sure the relationships they're engaging in, are real people," said Det. Janca.
Police say if you're caught as the middleman, depending on your intent and involvement, you could also face felony fraud charges.
The investigation in this case is still ongoing.