When Melbourne private investigator Julia Robson first discovered there was a New Zealand man calling himself ‘Charlie’ scamming women online, she felt personally offended.
As a kiwi herself, Robson, 37, was determined to hunt him down and stop him before her broke more hearts and stole more money.
Eight years later, and Robson has released a podcast called ‘Chasing Charlie’, a seven-part series in which you’ll meet women who have been psychologically and financially abused by this man.
The first woman, ‘Vivian’, came to her in 2011.
“She said she had quite a full-blown and passionate relationship with him,” Robson told 9Honey. “She was in her fifties and after her marriage ended, she wanted new experiences.
“She answered Charlie’s ad as a joke, and they got to talking. They began dating. Then he started asking for money. When she came to me she just wanted her money back.”
Robson began her investigation and what she uncovered was unlike anything she had ever seen before in his work.
“Vivian had some information but he had told her so many lies, like that he was the son of a famous New Zealand family. It was easy to verify that this was not correct. Then I did some surveillance on him and through the information he had given to a hire car company, discovered his name.
“She was in her fifties and after her marriage ended, she wanted new experiences.”
She also found another woman named ‘Emma’ who had been scammed by the man.
“Charlie is clearly a complex character and anyone who comes into contact with him ends up handing over money to him, not just women he is having relationships with.”
In fact, Charlie’s crimes have taken him from New Zealand to Australia to the south of France where he took deposits for the sale of items that didn’t exist.
“He flies under the radar because he keeps the money amounts pretty low,” she said. “And that’s the point of my work. If I don’t find him, nobody will so I just have to keep going.”
She tried to find clues in his past to explain his entitled behaviour, however only discovered he had been raised by a successful and stable family. He had a good upbringing, a decent education.
He just didn’t want to work for his money. He wanted to take short cuts.
One thing all the women agreed on was the fact that Charlie wasn’t good-looking and hadn’t aged well, but he had tricks and charm and was, according to them all, good in bed.
Robson said she thinks it is “early days” in the investigation and there are still more victims to be found.
“If I don’t find him, nobody will so I just have to keep going.”
She said Charlie found his victims online which enabled him to create a fantasy life that was far from reality.
“I still believe online dating is a great way of meeting people but there are certain things people should do to protect themselves,” she said. “Arrange a meeting in a public place sooner rather than later because the more you keep it online, the more you can be groomed.
“If they don’t want to meet you for a while, that’s not a good sign. The whole point of dating is to date in the real world but people end up staying online for too long and pouring their hearts out and are vulnerable and that’s when they become unstuck.”
In the podcast, we eventually find out who Charlie really is and what he is doing today.
After the Charlie investigation is over, Robson will return to her work as a private investigator, often following partners who may be cheating.
“It usually takes about a week to turn these investigations around,” she says. “There is a digital footprint that forms a base and then what the client has told me and I try and verify that. So if he says he works somewhere, I will check. If they have financial difficulties, I can find that.
“If they have been in and out of the court system for anything concerning, I can discover that too.”
She said not all of her clients are happy to accept her findings, but that reaction is just par for the course.
Although she is moving on from infidelity cases at the moment and in the future, preferring investigations that involve the selling of counter goods and similar matters like that.
“What I tell women now who meet someone in real life or online is that as soon as money is involved, even if it is with someone you are dating or are in a relationship with, it needs to be treated like a business transaction and appropriate due diligence needs to be followed,” she said. “There needs to be some sort of document in place that sets out how the money will be paid back and they should demonstrate their ability to repay the amount.”
Easy said than done when it comes to matters of the heart, but a listen to the Chasing Charlie podcast will be enough for you to be extra cautious with your heart and your money, of that Robson is sure.
Listen to Charlie Charlie podcast on Apple iTunes or on your favourite podcast app.