A man charged with fraud after allegedly meeting a woman online on a dating site and convincing her to give him $80,000 took the stand in his own defense during a preliminary hearing Tuesday, according to Channel 2 Action News.
John Martin Hill told a Gwinnett County judge the money the woman gave him was for an internet business she was buying from him, the news station reported.
“She approached me, she asked if I was new to the area,” he said. “She discussed knowing the area really well. She said she was a tattoo artist for cancer patients. We started discussing business.”
In court, Hill said the woman gave him the money before they met in person.
“We met at a steakhouse at the Alpharetta Avalon,” he said. “After all of this, the business transaction went down.”
The judge didn’t buy his story, Channel 2 reported. The judge said the fraud case against Hill will move forward, and he will remain in the Gwinnett jail until his attorney has a bond hearing, the news station reported.
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Hill’s charges stem from accusations that he met a woman on an internet dating site, convinced her they were in love and then took off with her money after agreeing to buy a house with her.
According to investigators, the scheme started March 27. Channel 2 reported the woman is a widowed mother of three children. Hill connected with her on Match.com, police previously said.
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Hill and the Alpharetta woman exchanged messages on the dating site and arranged to meet in person later the same day, AJC.com previously reported.
The proposal came next.
“During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together,” Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said. “They went house-hunting and selected a home they were interested in.”
The woman thought her $80,000 contribution would help with a down payment on the home and buy the couple some furniture.
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Once the money changed hands, the woman did not hear from him again, Pihera said.
In the days leading up to the alleged fraud, he was living in a Duluth apartment with $6 to his name, according to Channel 2. He lived with another woman and a child, police said.
Police in May released a photo of Hill and asked for the public’s help to locate him. Before the day was over, he was behind bars in Franklin, Tenn.
According to police there, officers tracked Hill to a Marriott hotel May 21 acting on a tip. When they confronted him, Hill allegedly darted into a conference room and hid under a table. He came out on officer’s orders and was arrested.
Hill was held in the Williamson County Jail in Franklin until he was extradited to Georgia, jail records show.
Multiple jurisdictions in at least four other states have had warrants out for the 35-year-old’s arrest under various names.
Investigators did not quantify the number of cases connected to Hill, but they confirmed he has changed his name five times within the past few years.
According to Gwinnett police, he was previously known as Gregory Dutton, Gregory Davis, George Hill, Maverick McCray and Gregory Hill, and was wanted in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. Authorities said more than once that he posted bail and vanished.
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