Romance scams target thousands in Massachusetts: “You have to get rid of your husband, honey” | #lovescams | #datingapps

TOWNSEND – Organized romance scammers target their victims by using sophisticated scripts, sending messages promising love, then they get men and women to send them money. 

That is bad enough. But, for a Townsend woman who was duped into believing a famous actor was in love with her, the scam took on a potentially more sinister tone that ended with her in handcuffs.

Romance scams

Star-struck, Roxanne Doucette thought she was exchanging romantic text messages with soap opera actor, Thorsten Kaye. Except the messages were not from Kaye, Doucette tells the I-Team, “It was a scam.”

Fraudsters, pretending to be the actor, duped Doucette into sending them money. 

Michael Kroll, the Special Agent in charge of the New England Office of Homeland Security Investigations, said, “The scammers work by first grooming their victims. They steal people’s hearts, and then they steal people’s money.”

Alleged attempted murder

On the morning of December 1, 2023, Doucette and her daughter reported the fraud to Townsend Police. Hours later, Doucette would become a suspect in the alleged attempted murder of her husband, Paul.

Police dispatchers sent first responders to the couple’s home. Doucette called 911, saying her 73-year-old husband was unresponsive but breathing and had a cardiac history. She told the dispatcher that Paul had been very dizzy earlier and was in a chair, mumbling, not making any sense.

Paramedics rushed Paul to Nashoba Valley Medical Center. The couple’s daughter met them at the hospital. While waiting for the doctors to examine Paul, she looked through her mom’s phone for messages from the scammers to send to the police. 

“Making an amazing soup. A special potion.”

What she allegedly uncovered were texts that suggested to her that her mother may have tried to kill Paul with poisoned soup.

“I never tried to poison him in any way whatsoever. I love him very very much, and I would never try to kill anyone,” Doucette told WBZ.

At the time, the 64-year-old said the soup was just old. But police say the messages between the scammers and Doucette appeared to tell a different story.

Court records show the fraudsters texted Doucette: “You have to get rid of your husband, honey. I need you so much.”

Doucette said she had to think, then allegedly texted: “Making an amazing soup. A special potion. He will be hungry when he gets back. Just enough for him.”

Hours later, prosecutors say she sent this text: “Hubby got back not feeling well. Maybe I can collect life insurance.”

The fraudsters responded: “When will that be.”

Doucette replied: “Don’t know.”

Uptick in romance scams in Massachusetts

Kroll says HSI is seeing an uptick in romance scams. Data obtained by CBS News from the Federal Trade Commission shows in 2023, Massachusetts residents reported 14,643 imposter scams, including more than 10,000 in the Boston area alone.

HSI says in many cases the fraudsters are part of a large international organization of thieves. They prey on vulnerable people who do not always report the fraud.

“People are embarrassed by the fact that they fell to somebody who is not real. But truly these organizations are sophisticated. The scripts are playwrights. They know how to defraud everybody. They are very good at it. That’s what they do. They are motivated by money, that’s it,” Kroll said.

Money seems to have been what the scammers were after in Doucette’s case. A case that Townsend Police Chief James Sartell says is complicated, ”sometimes it’s a little more complex than it seems.” 

Ordered to stay away from her husband

Police reports show Paul’s limited toxicology tests were negative. Still, a judge ordered Doucette to stay away from Paul. 

The I-Team caught up with Doucette at her home and spoke to her through the front door. She told us she didn’t know how Paul was doing and didn’t want to talk about what happened in December. 

She did tell WBZ in January that she did not try to poison her husband with soup. 

“I just want him to come home. I just love him so much,” she said.

Doucette charged

The I-Team reached out to Paul but did not hear back. Prosecutors have not charged Doucette with poisoning her husband. But she is facing charges involving resisting arrest and assault and battery. 

Police say when they tried to seize her phone for evidence, she allegedly fought back and kicked them. She is also charged with violating Paul’s restraining order. 

Doucette has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court next month.   

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