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A red flag: never meeting in real life

Though the two never met in person, Tony talked about marriage, said he purchased a ring and asked her to look for a house for them near where she lived. All the while, he kept prodding her for gift cards —  and promising he’d repay her. He even provided her with a password for a purported bank account with a $2 million balance.

The two were to meet for the first time last December after he flew to Philadelphia International Airport. She had had her hair and nails done and was waiting at home in her best dress for his call. A bottle of wine was chilling. Hours passed, without a word from him.

Tony lands “in jail”

A day later, Kleinert got a call from a man who claimed to be a lawyer and said Tony had been arrested at the airport because someone planted drugs in his luggage. Tony was said to be confined to a  Philadelphia jail and in need of $20,000 for bail — money she did not have. Later, Tony called and messaged to urge her to get the money somehow, even if it meant lying to her family. She refused. But her reservations melted away when he complained about the “awful” food in jail and asked for small sums, which she sent.

Then Tony’s story got even crazier. He called in January saying he was in Jordan; he said he’d been released so he could raise the bail money. She said that wasn’t the way it worked: You don’t get out of custody to raise bail. Finally, she saw the romance for what it was — phonier than a $3 bill.

Picking up the pieces

Now employed again, Kleinert still feels the sting of her loss. “I can’t get things repaired at the house,” she told senators. “I’ve had no air conditioning this summer, my refrigerator is off and my stove is off.”

Some in law enforcement gave her the cold shoulder, she said, remembering being told: “Why did you call us? There’s no crime here. You gave this money to him willingly.”

Though Tony was fake, her heartbreak is real. What hurts most was “losing his love and losing the family I thought I was going to have and what my new future was going to be,” she said. “That is much harder to deal with than losing the money.”

She urged potential victims to trust their instincts, saying, “If your gut is telling you there’s something wrong here, listen to it.” Sadder and wiser, she’s learned her lesson and remarks: “God help the man who even asks me for a quarter.”

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