Police in Georgia are looking for a man they say met a woman through an online dating site, agreed to marry her within a week, scammed her out of $80,000, and then left town and cut off all contact with her.
Gwinnett County police have a warrant for the arrest of John Martin Hill, 35, who is charged with theft by deception. Police believe Hill has pulled similar scams in four other states.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a woman from Alpharetta told police she met Hill through the dating site Match.com on March 27, and that the couple met each other the same day they first exchanged messages.
“During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together,” said Cpl. Michele Pihera, a spokesperson for Gwinnett police. “They went house hunting and selected a home they were interested in.”
Pihera said the couple agreed to get married within a week of their contact.
Police said Hill told the woman he was a millionaire, and somehow convinced her to fork over $80,000 to purchase a home and furnish it as well. But after she transferred the money to Hill, he vanished and ceased all contact with her, the report said.
Investigators later discovered that Hill lived with another woman and a child in a Duluth apartment, and that he had gone by various names — changing it five times in less than three years — while allegedly pulling similar trickery in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.
Gwinnett police encourage anyone knowing Hill’s whereabout to contact their detectives at 770-513-5300. For those wanting to remain anonymous and perhaps receive a monetary reward up to $2,000, they may contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, visit the Crime Stoppers website or send a text with relevant information to 274637.
The Federal Trade Commission offers tips on its website on how to identify online dating scams in advance. They include someone wanting to leave the dating website and chat through personal email, messenger or phone. It also includes someone professing their love so quickly, or things like claiming to be from the United States but traveling overseas at the moment, or telling them they planned to visit but either a business deal had gone sour or they quickly had some sort of traumatic event.
The FTC also recommends not to wire money to cover travel, hotels, hospital bills for children, visas, medical emergencies or temporary financial losses. The FTC says once the scammer feels comfortable asking for money, they’ll keep doing it.
The FTC also advises contacting either them, the FBI or that person’s state attorney general’s office to report any relationship scams.