U.S. Government Bans Woman Money Mule From Helping Scammers Anymore

In a First of Its Kind Decision, the U.S. Court Orders Money Mule to Stop Helping Scammers! This was Required Because She Would Not Stop!

Primary Category: Scam Victim’s Story

Authors:
•  SCARS Editorial Team – Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  United States Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice

About This Article

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Federal Government has barred Holly Freidamarie Locke, a 70-year-old Michigan woman, from participating in any further online romance scams. Locke, initially a victim herself, was deceived into acting as a “money mule,” transmitting funds for scammers. Despite police warnings and a signed cease and desist order, she continued facilitating scams.

U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman approved a consent decree preventing Locke from aiding scammers. This decision, the first of its kind in Michigan, is part of a broader DOJ effort to combat international fraud rings exploiting U.S. citizens.

Locke’s case highlights the manipulation tactics used by scammers and the crucial role of money mules in these schemes. By cutting off this flow of money, the decree aims to protect potential victims and disrupt the operations of fraud networks. Locke did not admit liability in the decree.

U.S. Government Bans Woman Money Mule From Helping Scammers Anymore - 2024 - on SCARS ScamsNOW.com - The Magazine of Scams Fraud and Cybercrime

A First of Its Kind Decision: United States Federal Government Bars a Michigan Woman from Further Participation in Online Romance Scams

A Scam Victim Turned Money Mule

A Jackson Michigan woman deceived into helping with online romance scams and money laundering has been barred by a federal court from aiding or interacting with scammers in any way.

U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan Paul D. Borman approved a consent decree, on May 16, from federal prosecutors prohibiting Holly Freidamarie Locke, 70, from assisting, facilitating, or participating in any more romance scams, according to the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Michigan.

The decree comes after investigators discovered Locke was repeatedly aiding romance scammers, acting as a “money transmitter” (money mule) while she herself was also being scammed, despite being told so by police who ordered her to stop, prosecutors said.

A money transmitter (money mule) aids in scams by receiving money from other victims and obscuring the transfer of funds from those victims to the scammer. Locke is alleged to have acted in this role after meeting and developing a romantic relationship with several scammers online, prosecutors said.

Locke began by aiding a scammer in Ghana in February 2022, believing she was helping him build an orphanage in Africa, according to the federal complaint.

Once their relationship developed, Locke began receiving numerous packages from strangers containing money, which she passed on to her purported fiancé/husband in Ghana. The money was sent from victims who believed they were assisting their own online romantic partners and friends, the complaint states.

After flagging several Priority Mail packages sent by Locke to Africa in 2022, U.S. Postal Inspectors intervened, investigated and told Locke she was the victim of a romance scam, prosecutors said, adding she signed a cease and desist order stating she would no longer interact with the scammer.

There were no further issues until May 2023, when Locke became a money transmitter (money mule) again in several other new scams involving people Locke met on Facebook who said they needed help paying medical bills, court records show.

This civil action against Locke is the first of its kind in the Eastern District of Michigan and is part of a broader trend in recent years by the Department of Justice to disrupt international fraud rings that target U.S. citizens through fake social media profiles, U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison said.

“This consent decree cuts off the flow of money from the victims to the international scammers behind these scams,” Ison said. “In an increasingly online world, people are under constant threat from unscrupulous people trying to compromise personal information or otherwise defraud them. This case should put scammers on notice that we will protect our citizens from this particularly cruel type of victimization.”

Locke did not admit liability as part of the consent decree, Ison said.

In a romance scam, a person typically starts talking to a stranger they meet online, not knowing the stranger intends to defraud them. After developing a friendship or romantic relationship where the victim is groomed, manipulated, and controlled, the scammer will ask the victim to send them money based on false claims about the need for the funds, officials involved in this case said.

If the victim does not have money to send, scammers often will use that person as a money transmitter (money mule) by routing payments from other victims to that person and instructing that person to transfer the money to the scammer, officials said.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office

United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison Announces First of Its Kind Civil Action in District to Combat International Fraud Ring

United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced today that a Jackson resident has agreed to a court order preventing her from participating in behavior that facilitates a suspected international fraud ring. This civil action is the first of its kind in the Eastern District of Michigan and is part of a broader trend in recent years by the Department of Justice to disrupt international fraud rings that target United States citizens through fake social media profiles.

As part of a civil consent decree approved by U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman, Holly Locke, 70, is permanently prohibited from assisting, facilitating, or participating in any romance scam. A romance scam is typically a scheme in which an individual starts talking to a stranger they meet online, not knowing the stranger intends to defraud them. Eventually, after developing a friendship or romantic relationship, the scammer will ask the victim to send them money based on false representations about the need for the funds. If the victim does not have money to send, sometimes the scammer will use that person as a money transmitter by routing payments from other victims to that person and instructing that person to transfer the money to the scammer. A money transmitter plays a critical role in the scheme, by receiving the money from other victims and obscuring the transfer of funds from those victims to the scammer.

Locke is alleged to have acted as a money transmitter after meeting and developing a romantic relationship with a scammer online. Once the relationship developed, Locke then began receiving numerous packages from strangers containing money, which she passed on to her purported fiancé/husband. The money was sent from victims who believed they were assisting their own online romantic partners and friends. Locke did not admit liability as part of the consent decree.

“This office is committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect Americans from fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Ison. “This consent decree cuts off the flow of money from the victims to the international scammers behind these scams. In an increasingly online world, people are under constant threat from unscrupulous people trying to compromise personal information or otherwise defraud them. This case should put scammers on notice that we will protect our citizens from this particularly cruel type of victimization.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to safeguarding all Americans from individuals who attempt to exploit them through fraudulent and deceptive schemes. Today’s civil action, unprecedented in the Eastern District of Michigan, should serve as a warning to anyone engaging in or abetting similar scams – you will be held accountable and brought to justice,” said Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Detroit Division.

The agencies involved in this effort urge consumers to be on the lookout for signs someone is trying to recruit them to receive and transmit fraud proceeds. Do not agree to receive money or checks mailed to you or sent to your bank account for someone you have met over the phone or online. Do not open a bank or cryptocurrency account at someone else’s direction. Fraudsters will lie to persuade you to help them. They may falsely tell you that they are helping you get a lottery prize, initiate a purported romantic relationship, and then tell you that they need money, or pretend to offer you a job, an opportunity to invest in a business venture, or the chance to help in a charitable effort.

Those knowing anyone age 60 or older who has experienced financial fraud, should contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311), which is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.

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Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

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