It started out as an online romance.
“He was pretty good looking, initially and then he was just so sweet.”
A Central Saanich woman, who doesn’t want to reveal her identity, said she had recently separated from her husband when she signed on to the dating website Plenty of Fish and received a message from a Calgary man who went by Mohammed El-Tassi.
“We started talking on the phone every day all day, we started texting all the time,” she said.
She fell in love and was stunned weeks later when he sent her a message saying he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“He would always talk to me about his chemo treatments, what was happening,” she said.
The pair made plans to meet and in February she flew to Calgary.
“I met his friends, I met some of his family, I met his sister, his brother-in-law, then we went roller skating.”
They started planning a future together and he told her he could make them some money fast.
He knew how to buy cars at auction, and flip them, and his realtor brother had a foreclosure property they could make big money on.
She sent him her down payment savings, a total of $35,000.
“When the paperwork didn’t come I started to panic,” she said.
And it turns out, she was right to panic as there was no car and no house, and she says she later found out there was no cancer either.
He had even given her a fake name.
He was actually 40-year-old Mohammed Assaf, a man with a lengthy criminal record, wanted on warrants from four different provinces for fraud-related crimes.
She went to the Central Saanich Police Department, armed with copies of text messages and phone conversations.
“We started figuring out how we could find him, would we have him come out here and we could arrest him,” Deputy Chief Derren Lench said.
Assaf had reportedly eluded Calgary Police for three years so the woman from Central Saanich took it into her own hands.
She remained in daily contact with him then bought him tickets to see a movie last weekend, working with police in Central Saanich and Calgary who then arrested him in his seat.
“Kudos to the victim who had the courage to do that because she was the one that really helped bring this together and ultimately result in that arrest,” Lench said.
Assaf remains in custody in Calgary facing 16 fraud-related charges — only one is connected to the Central Saanich case.
“It’s weird enough to say I feel guilty about it because I’m not a liar and I feel I meant every I love you and all those things, but ya I did manipulate him into his own game,” she said.
She says it will be difficult to move forward, but wants to warn others that falling in love can land you in the arms of a predator.