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Romance scam unravels after man caught at Charlotte Douglas International Airport with a bag of cash

The men would target their victims online and convince them they were in romantic relationships while slowly convincing them to send bigger amounts of money.
Credit: Karen Roach - stock.adobe.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte is at the center of a romance scam that took $1.5 million from women who thought they were in love. It’s a scheme that stretched all the way to Africa and only unraveled after a man was caught at Charlotte Douglas International Airport with a bag full of cash.

The United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, Dena J. King, said this kind of scam is on the rise, and she’s hoping this story will serve as a warning for others.

Even as a veteran prosecutor, King was shocked by the audacity of the crime.

“It is insane, it actually hits you in the gut,” King said. “This organization scammed $1.5 million from 30 people.”

The men would target their victims -- mostly older women -- online and convince them they were in romantic relationships while slowly convincing them to send bigger and bigger amounts of money; Michael Moore would travel to each victim to pick the money up.

It all unraveled when Moore showed up at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport with a bag full of cash and Homeland Security started asking questions.

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“Moore happened to be transiting through Charlotte Douglas after picking up a large sum of money, $75,000, from a victim here locally and that led to an investigation that reached across the Atlantic into west Africa," Michael Prado, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in Charlotte, said.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

King said there is a term for Moore's pattern.

“Mr. Moore is what we consider a bag man or a moneyman," King explained. "He would literally travel throughout the U.S. to meet with victims where victims would hand him over cash -- and we're talking about thousands and thousands of dollars -- in brown bags and he would take that money and would send it overseas to some of his co-conspirators.”

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King said the men targeted people through social media and dating websites. 

"Mr. Moore would pretend to be in love or have a romantic interest with many of the victims and over time he would begin to request money from them," King said. "He’d start off with small amounts of money and after he was able to get smaller amounts, work his way up to getting much larger amounts."

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One of his victims lives in Charlotte and lost everything.

“She gave up her savings,” King said.

Moore can be seen using the money as a prop in a video he sent to his co-conspirators.

“He would record videos after he took the money," King said. "He would spread it out on a bed and record videos where [he] was literally bragging about being able to take so much cash from the victims and you physically see stacks of money laying on the bed. This is literally hard-earned money from a victim who no longer has this money.”

Even after he’d been caught, King said Moore went back to his victims, texting them to cover for him and asking for more money.

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“Even after the money was seized by law enforcement, this fraudster Mr. Moore continued to go back to the same victim to seek out additional money,” King said. 

But not anymore. Moore is now serving 10 years in prison. His co-conspirators though remain free. Investigators say it's almost impossible to build a case against overseas fraudsters.

According to the FBI’s Elder Abuse Report, romance scams are responsible for the biggest losses -- almost half a billion dollars in 2021. 

That’s a 74% increase from the year before.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

In 2021, there were more than 92,000 victims of elder fraud overall with a total loss of $1.7 billion and the average victim losing $18,246. 

North Carolina ranks 15th nationwide for the highest number of victims of elder abuse. South Carolina is 24th.

Contact Michelle at mboudin@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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