A woman who allegedly devised an elaborate con to swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims she met online was jailed Tuesday in Nebraska for two felony counts of theft by deception.
Julie Cahlaway, 38, routinely used dating websites for affluent men, as well as exotic fish forums, allegedly to locate people who would give her money to help out with fictitious medical and legal issues.
According to the Omaha World-Herald, Cahlaway met Mitchell Schwarz on a dating website, and the two began a relationship. Cahlaway then faked a pregnancy and an investment opportunity to swindle a nearly of $280,000 from Mitchell’s mother Sharon A. Schwarz.
ABC News reports that Cahlaway targeted Mitchell, a “lonely and recently divorced” man, to hustle “funds of sympathy” from the wealthy family. Cahlaway reportedly shared ultrasound pictures to convince them she was pregnant with Mitchell’s child, which she said was a girl.
The paper additionally reports that an affidavit revealed Cahlaway stole the funds in 15 transactions last year, all of which were intended to be loans. The total includes $75,000 the Schwarzes gave Cahlaway for an oil investment, which she allegedly used to buy herself a BMW X5 SUV.
Cahlaway is accused of spending the rest of the money on designer clothing, as well as in support of her online exotic tropical fish business.
The affidavit, prepared by Douglas County Lt. William Rinn, states that “it appears Cahlaway uses various online dating forums to meet men, gain their confidence, and solicit funds in a quasi-Ponzi scheme format.”
ABC also noted that Cahlaway had been convicted on similar charges in Minnesota and Illinois, and was on “high risk” probation when she moved to the Omaha area and fleeced the Schwarzes.
The suspect reportedly told her boyfriend and his mother that her own funds were frozen in ongoing legal proceedings. They became suspicious and informed authorities of the unusual behavior in December. Police charged Cahlaway in late January after conducting an investigation.
The other Douglas County theft charge involves an unrelated vehicle sale.