You might think participating in a romance scam is nothing to worry about in the eyes of the law. You are simply trading romance for some money. What’s the harm when the other party is getting something (like attention and companionship)?
If such scams only involved a few hundred dollars, the argument above might make more sense. However, most of these schemes result in the loss of thousands to millions of dollars, and the government is not about to let it slide.
Harsh consequences upon conviction
In 2021, a federal grand jury charged 11 people in Texas with defrauding elderly citizens via romance scams. If convicted, the defendants could face 20 to 30 years of imprisonment.
Several criminal elements
While it is not illegal to fake a romantic interest in another person online, it is unlawful to deceive them out of their money. Further, it is not the romantic aspect that results in criminal charges. Most of these schemes involve white-collar crime elements like:
- Wire fraud
- Identify theft or fraud
- Conspiracy to defraud
Money laundering charges may also arise during romance scam investigations.
Extortion may also be a factor
Sometimes, those involved in romance scams face extortion charges on top of everything else. For example, obtaining intimate photos and then threatening to post them online unless the other party pays a substantial figure is illegal. Under Texas law, an extortion conviction involving at least $200,000 could result in up to 99 years in prison.
If you’re facing charges for an alleged romance scam, regardless of your possible guilt or complete innocence, it is wise to learn more about your defense options. With experienced legal guidance, you can protect your rights and fight conviction or get your charges reduced as much as possible.