Gypsy Sweetheart Scams
Tina Costello, age 42
Scamming the elderly in Sweetheart Swindles in Arizona & Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area
- Born NINA COSTELLO
- DOB 3-11-1975 in Contra Costa County, California
- Using multiple aliases, SSNs and dates of birth. Using Tina & Nina in combination with last names Costello, Marks, Stevens, Adams, Steve
Tina Costello: Bilking elderly widowers out of their life savings
Tina Costello Sweetheart Swindler
These are the faces of the people who stole $150,000 from an elderly Arizona man. Please read my story and consider sharing it for others to read.
This scam often involves an elderly man who is befriended by a young woman. She convinces him she truly cares about him and implies a romantic interest. She tells him she needs money for rent, food, furniture, her business, or she needs surgery. She may swindle him out of his life savings, often causing him to file bankruptcy. This is a very common fraud among Gypsy women.
~ from the San Jose Police Department
Rom Gypsies and Financial Exploitation
Tina is part of a Romani family of nomadic predators in Arizona and California, known as The Rom Gypsies, specializing in a variety of scams and confidence crimes against the elderly and vulnerable.
Always working in groups, they incorporate their family members into the cons, each playing their own role in making the ruse more believable to the victim to maximize payout.
At the end of their scheme, their target is ultimately left penniless.
The Gypsy livelihood is dependent upon people like you and I knowing nothing of the criminality inside their insular community. They live in their own world, following their own Gypsy law, governed by their own Gypsy justice system and courts, speaking a Gypsy language no one but them understands. Marriages are arranged, dowries are paid based upon the woman's earning potential, and children are removed from school by around 5th or 6th grade.
They respect no culture but their own, and while stealing from each other is forbidden, they believe that non-gypsies (called gadje or gaje) exist to be fleeced to their benefit. In other words, they do no harm to each other, but stealing from you, or me, or my father is fully permitted. Their Rom Gypsy culture believes they were granted this right from birth and the tale is told to each child born into their world. With multiple aliases and social security numbers creating a myriad of identities, there are special task forces in major cities dedicated to identifying the specific crimes carried out by these transient criminal families.
With thousands of Rom Gypsies in numerous cities across America, law enforcement estimates that of ‘Sweetheart Swindles’ in particular, only about one in 10 are ever reported to police - most generally at the urging of family members who discover too late that the victim's finances have been depleted.
Targeting primarily elderly and vulnerable adults, oftentimes victims who do report these crimes make very bad witnesses; many being unable to recall faces and details of their case due to advanced age, and others unable to recognize that a scam has even occurred. Most Sweetheart Swindles, however, go unreported out of embarrassment, with the victims living out their remaining years living off social security, paying minimum payments on the credit accounts opened in their name during the con.
The pictures you see on this site are of the Marks Gypsy clan that took advantage of my father in 2013. This site was created to raise awareness of the growing problem of financial exploitation by this group and to help others recognize the signs - and the thieves perpetrating these crimes.
Profile, Target, Defraud
The Tina Costello Sweetheart Swindle
This is not a case of a woman's mistaken intentions. This is a calculated con, from start to finish, by a family of Rom Gypsy scam artists in Arizona. It's about befriending their victims and draining their bank accounts - nothing less.
Tina Costello Marks is a 42-year-old woman who, along with her husband, David, and their son and daughter-in-law, target elderly men they deem vulnerable to their financial scams. Posing Tina as the single woman 'finally able to trust again,' she befriends the older man which quickly evolves into a relationship, while inventing stories of needing capital for a non-existent business she’s starting, help getting back on her feet after leaving a bad marriage, enduring medical problems, needing transportation, etc.
Together, Tina Costello and her family bilk the man of his savings over the next few months, until he’s financially devastated.
The criminal element of the Rom Gypsies is well-known to law enforcement across the country for cases of fraud, theft, swindles and other bunco-related crimes commonly perpetrated against the elderly and others in vulnerable positions in their lives. Gypsy crimes will usually fall within specific types of crimes (e.g. insurance fraud, psychic scams, ruse burglaries, sweetheart swindles), depending on the specialties of the individual families involved. While gypsy families aren't known for a moral compass of limitations, their focus tends to stay within a few select niche crimes the family specializes in. Their criminal lifestyle is multi-generational and the methods used to carry out these crimes are taught young and passed on to each generation like a blueprint, replacing the need for employment. Their cons are skillfully executed throughout a lifetime, just as their parents did, just as their grandparents did, and just as their children will do. Tina Costello's con is separating elderly men from their financial assets using Sweetheart Swindles.
Tina selected one of her elderly victims from a Sam’s Club parking lot in the Phoenix area:
Tina, along with her daughter-in-law, Sarah, approached the man claiming car troubles. Over coffee and lies about her identity and background, she told the man she was coming out of a bad marriage and grieving a dead brother ~ and so begins the confidence crime she and her extended family have pulled off so many times before, up and down the west coast. Finally, as fate would have it, she's met someone she can really talk to, open up to, and enjoy life with again, she claims.
That unlucky person pulled into this con was my dad—an elderly farmer from the Midwest who had lost my mother to cancer 9 years prior, and had chosen the Phoenix winters over snow, like many retirees. The ‘chance meeting' at Sam's Club began a downward spiral in his life that would end with her stealing everything this hard-working man had worked his whole life for.
Identifies herself with a false name, seeking investment monies for a non-existent business
Tina Costello entered his life full-force with stories of the new business she was opening, and promises of a future together. She pursued him. She was suddenly in his life on a daily basis, involving herself in every aspect of it. Marriage was talked about. Everything was fast. My dad, having been widowed for several years at this point, enjoyed Tina's company and looked forward to spending all his time with her. She was fun and full of life, and age was just a number, she told him. It was, “A new start to the last chapter in my life," he said; words originally spoken by Tina, in fact. But the words appealed to him, and he would repeat them several times. He was welcomed by a very close-knit family, who was encouraging of the relationship: David, Jacob, Sarah and Anna - they were all part of the family's plan to empty his savings.
Tina's Car Scam
Within days of meeting, Tina had begun taking advantage of my father, starting with driving him to a dealership and telling him of a great deal on a rare car; a 2013 $66,000 Roush Mustang, which was to 'gain value' over the next five years. It would be a very good investment for him, they said.
My dad did understand he was buying a car on that day, but was told it would be his. The family had him wire $66,000 from his bank account and went to San Tan Ford in Gilbert. When the paperwork was being signed, Tina's son, Jacob, quickly ushered my dad into another area with the distraction of a question that needed answering right away.
Before leaving this area, salesman Matthew Romano of San Tan Ford asked WHOSE name was going on the title - and my father raised his hand, stated his name, and told them it was his name going on the title.
When Jacob and my dad returned to the area, conveniently, the paperwork had already been completed. This detail didn’t raise concern for him, considering he’d already signed before leaving with Jacob. A lot didn't raise concern.. they were much faster than him, their hearing was much better, and they were professional con artists who knew what they were doing.
The car title arrived in the mail days later, and when my dad opened the paperwork — Tina was ON the title with him. I’ll be careful not to heap accusations onto a company based on one employee, but I won't hesitate to say this: That salesman knew that the elderly man giving him the money was the one who stated he was to be put on title, and signed the paperwork. It shouldn't matter what any other person 'said' after the owner left the room, the salesman should not have changed/added/altered what name was to go on this title. Agree?
When my dad saw how his new car was titled, right away he asked Tina about this and she claimed it was "a mistake"—grabbing the title from his shirt pocket, saying she would get it changed, and taking the title with her.
During the period of time that followed, they preyed on his age and inability to recognize that this was a con game, taking advantage of him and bilking thousands in cash, opened lines of credit, vehicles, new furniture—but most notably, for the phony business Tina claimed to be opening with his help. 'This is for our future,' she would tell him. He was an 'investor' in this non-existent business. (Note: the 'opening a new business' line is a textbook characteristic of these particular scams, as is medical problems.) The numerous checks were written to the name Nina Costello (that’s her actual name; she goes by Tina), and she misled him with each requested check with invented stories of what each was paying for.. ‘This one is paying for equipment at the job site,' and such. No job site, no business. All manufactured lies.
She called my dad in a feigned panic one day shortly after, saying she went to go register his new Mustang for him (her name is still on title with his, remember), but claims to have discovered he's in big trouble with the Department of Motor Vehicles for lack of insurance, and that they're demanding $1000 or they'll come to the garage and take his car. Confusion ensues, the situation is critical, a proposal by my dad to simply come pay the $1000 was quickly shot down, and there’s a lot of commotion taking place and fast talking which he had a hard time following during the phone call, and Tina needs an immediate answer. The only way out of this urgent mess, she claims: Is for her—standing right then and there at the DMV window—to “just temporarily” retitle the Mustang in HER name alone, thereby removing my dad from his title until the problem is rectified. And, that’s what she did.
He went to her house numerous times, asking for his new car—and she put him off every time, never letting him have it.
A car was only an initial step in the long con, but I’ve chosen to detail it not only because it illustrates the method and tactics they employ, but because many Sweetheart Swindles will begin the same way. The ability to extract a car fully transferred into her name signified a score, and that this man would be vulnerable to bigger things.
The con of building the false relationship and planning their 'future together' went on many months, wrapped up in lies, promises, confusing distractions at just the right times, and of course, an escalating need for more money involving the new business my dad fully believed himself to be part of. It was a family con job: Tina, David, Jacob, Sarah and Anna (teenage daughter of Tina & David).. Their life of thievery is as natural to them as breathing. What happened to my dad, is a typical Gypsy Sweetheart Swindle. The players go from one senior citizen to scouting the next, staying until they've depleted their entire savings, or until a family member catches wind of what's going on and alerts law enforcement (in some cases, even that’s not enough to get rid of them, yet). By this time though, the scam artists can be long gone, and so is any hope of recouping the money taken from the elderly victim.
Tina Costello ultimately stole $150,000 from my dad in cash, cars, and phony investments
(Not counting numerous store cards, and another 49k truck loan he was responsible for)
They do not, nor have they ever, held traditional employment—this is their income and it is their employment, and they live well from it—so as they move onto their next aging victim to financially exploit, my hope is that someone reads this; a family member, a caring neighbor, a friend with suspicions about a sudden young girlfriend or “new friend” entering an elderly man’s life… maybe they can stumble upon this page and prevent Tina, David, Jacob and Sarah from destroying someone else's final years.
They ARE still actively pulling the same sweetheart scams today, in 2017: Tina still operates in the Phoenix area (Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa, San Tan Valley areas), devastating the lives of elderly men who didn’t know the information you’ve read. Countless readers, too, are identifying daughter-in-law Sarah as the woman pursuing their aging fathers and grandfathers.
- ► Common Gypsy Last Names
- ► Rita Tene-Bimbo, and Other Sweetheart Swindles in the News
- ► Have information on Tina Costello? Please, message me.
The Gypsies Directly Involved in my Father’s Scam:
David Steve - the husband who poses as "the brother"
After trust is built, he strategically places his 'once in a lifetime' opportunities which he lets the victim in on. With manufactured confusion and 'act now' tactics, the bank accounts of their elderly victim are depleted in weeks and that money is in the pockets of the Costellos.
While shaking down old people, he also runs Craigslist car scams in Phoenix with son, Jacob, selling cars with mileage tampering.
Look long and hard at the faces of David and his son, Jacob, because once you've handed them your cash, their phone numbers are changed, and they’re gone.
- When speaking to each other, they'll sometimes speak in a language you've never heard before, anywhere. This is their Romani gypsy language.
- When speaking in English, they'll have an unmistakably odd accent, which they'll try to pass off as Italian or Hungarian. (Sort of a Bronx-sounding accent mixed with a foreign accent.)
Jacob Costello - the son, a major player in his mom’s fraud
AKA Jake Marks
24 years old
The fast-talker and big player in his mother's cons. Responsible for taking my dad to the Ford dealership to purchase the $66,000 car, where he created a diversion resulting in his mother's name being put on the title. THEY GOT THE CAR, and my dad got nothing. When my dad continued to show up at their house asking for his new car, he was turned away.
Jacob IS THE FACE of his family's odometer-fraud car scams on Craigslist. Jacob has brothers and other relatives that look very, very similar to him, which may be with him. Remember the accent.
Sarah Costello - the daughter-in-law
Jacob's wife. Running her own elderly sweetheart scams, while helping her mother-in-law carry out her cons.
Assisted in scamming my father, targeting him with Tina in a store parking lot in Arizona, claiming car troubles. Within days, substantial purchases were being made, and he was ultimately bilked out of $150,000 in cash, cars and phony investments.
Jake Costello/Jake Marks - Gilbert, AZ
- Click photos for additional pictures
Tina is a Skilled Con Artist — she was draining the life savings of men long before my dad, and she continues doing so today in 2017.
►►If your father is a victim of Tina or Sarah, or if you have information, please send me a message.
If your loved one is involved with the female subjects in these photos, this will end very badly. A major distinction between the women in my dad’s story and an opportunistic girl wanting her rent paid, is that the Gypsy woman in a Sweetheart Swindle will not relent until they've parted their victim of every last dime. Make no mistake: They don’t want some of your money—they want ALL OF IT. Tina Costello showed no mercy, kindness or conscience as her con came to an end, becoming aggressive in her demands and threatening at the suggestion the victim would cooperate with police. The unwavering persistence was not something researching other people’s accounts had prepared me for. They stopped at nothing even after being caught, as Tina feverishly continued contacting my father using blocked numbers long afterwards, continuing requests for money and inventing stories of fake illnesses and deaths in an attempt to reel him back in.
They are heartless, exhaustive cons that continue manipulating their targets after financially ruining them, and after being ordered away by the victim's adult children. This is not one bad apple within a family—this is a crime family preying on vulnerable, weaker individuals, using a well-played, well-rehearsed plan to deplete their victims’ financial reserve entirely. Nearly all family members I have connected Tina to, in varying locations, have criminal histories involving fraud or theft to some degree, with many documented as Sweetheart Swindlers themselves, and some with multiple cases.
If Tina or Sarah are involved with your elderly family member, don’t wait to intervene. If he’s reluctant to listen to his children and needs further convincing, message me.
Why the Sweetheart Swindle Works
For anyone reading this who may think that our parents and grandparents should be wise enough not to fall for something like this, I'd simply say that if you've lived your whole life without being truly blindsided by someone you think you know, then consider yourself lucky. Now imagine yourself at the age of 80.. Seniors are easy targets because they tend to be more trusting, they're prone to forgetfulness and can be easily confused, and, subsequently manipulated by the right person. Many times they've been living on their own for years after the death of their spouse. Their adult children, while probably keeping in touch and staying up on their daily activities, may not live nearby and don't catch the warning signs. It's easy for their kids, as close as they may be to their parents, to write off simple bouts of forgetfulness as 'Mom or Dad told me the same story twice today,' and regard it as harmless and part of the aging process, never realizing these seemingly minor changes in our parents present skilled thieves the opportunity to carry out large-scale financial crimes against them.
Making the con easier to pull off, many of the Rom Gypsies selecting this lifestyle don't look like criminals; they're well dressed, drive nice cars, are polite and very well-mannered (oddly enough) — a far cry, at first glance, from some 'thug' you would expect to be defrauding the elderly, or anyone else. And scammers know that as the mind begins to slip, so do the defenses. As the elderly lose their sharpness, it's easier than you might imagine for someone to swoop in and wreck their lives financially in a very short amount of time—sometimes, just days. There wouldn't be story after story in the headlines (see below) if this weren't the case. Less often are the crimes of these nomadic criminals being referred to as "gypsy scams" in the news, due to the risk associated with lumping a specific group with specific crimes (blah, blah, blah). Those who investigate transient-criminal crimes, however, can easily recognize them as Rom Gypsy scams.
Tina (pictured) and her family move around Phoenix, Arizona, commonly found in:
- San Tan Valley
- Faking illnesses (vague medical descriptions such as ‘female problems’ ensure men of an older generation ask few questions)
- Inventing dying relatives (as this sociopath drains you financially—her family members need help, too)
LINES TO WATCH FOR:
- "This is for our future.” (You'll hear this most often as you're writing out another check.) This is actually for MY future.. but I need to keep you thinking this is 'us'.
- "I'm Italian." Because if I told you I was a Rom gypsy trained from birth to steal, you wouldn't date me.
- "I'm Hungarian." Because if I told you I was a Rom gypsy trained from birth to steal, you wouldn't date me.
- "Don't tell your children about this. They wouldn't understand." Because if anyone else heard this crazy story, they'd know it was a fraud.
- "I can see us together the rest of our lives." Or until I've taken everything from you, leaving you with massive debt and living off your social security.
- "I was in a bad relationship; I never expected to be with another man." My snaking, manipulative personality makes me the perfect candidate for an abusive relationship.. but no, all is fine on the homefront. My large, jobless husband is quite proud of me for all the money I'm stealing from you.
- "I have a job." I do have a job—and it’s currently YOU.
- “I'm self-employed." This charade helps ensure you can never find out anything about me.
- "I have one child." I have several kids actually, and they're all playing a role to con you. Every one of them.
- "I come from a large family and they live in California." Sure many live in California, but as we're transient thieves, many are actually holed up a couple of miles down the road from here, too. I see them all the time - they spend your money, too.
Gypsies are experts at false identification.
It's common practice to use the names of family members and use various birth dates, SSNs and aliases, including adding or changing a few letters of the last name.
- Common American gypsy last names and aliases you'll see associated with many 'transient offender' crimes: Costello, Marks, Steve, Stevens, Adamo, Adams, Angelo, Black, Butch, Christo, Costa, Davis, Demetro, Demitro, Delmaro, Eli, Ely, Ephrem, Ephraim, Evans, Frank, George, Guy, John, Johns, Johnson, Kaslov, King, Lakatos, Lakatosz, Lee, Leo, Loeo, Marino, Merino, Moreno, Marco, Marks, Marx, Miguel, Miller, Mills, Milo, Mitchell, Mitlo, Mitlow, Montes, Montez, Nicholas, Nichols, Nicklas, Nicola, Riste, Ristich, Ristick, Stanley, Sterio, Steve, Stevens, Stevenson, Stokes, Stone, Tan, Tene, Bimbo, Tennis, Thompson, Tom, Uanno, Ufie, Ulrich, Urich, Uwanawich, Vlado, Wanko, Williams, Yoanis, Yonko, Zeko, Ziko, Zitko. This is in addition to the names they take on after stealing the identity of their victims.
- Locations of crimes related to Tina Costello's clan: Phoenix area, Chandler AZ, Gilbert, Arizona, San Francisco Bay Area of California, to Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego - with relation through Houston, Texas, Las Vegas, Nevada up to Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Spokane, Washington, in addition to the east coast. The Rom usually live in well-populated, diverse cities. [New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Illinois also see a lot of gypsy crime.]
A Glimpse into Rom Gypsy Scams
- What is a Sweetheart Swindle and how does it work?
- LA Times: Gypsies, The Usual Suspects
Detectives train for Rom Gypsy crimes.
- Gypsies: King of Cons
An older online article, but still an informative, straightforward look into the criminal element.
Below are links that might be of interest if you're unfamiliar with these types of crimes. This is merely a sampling to illustrate the cons that take place within the Rom Gypsies' criminal world. I use the term “gypsies” on this site both because they are ethnic Gypsies, and it's what they call themselves, so I have no reason to refer to them as anything different.
Likewise, you'll see references to "gypsy scammers” and other such phrases as you read the Sweetheart Swindles and other cases. Yep, it's an oppressive label in today’s politically-correct world, and perhaps if they want to change their associated labels, this criminal subculture should stop the crimes, and stop raising each generation to see those outside of their culture as a means for withdrawal of money.
If I were to focus on listing their insurance fraud, car scams, staged auto accidents, dent-repair scams, ruse entry and distraction burglaries, scrap-metal theft, robberies, home repair, roofing, driveway paving and fortune-telling/psychic scams, I'd run out of room. One could only hope they'd inbreed themselves into extinction, but so far.. no luck.
Gypsy Sweetheart Swindler, Currently Operating in Las Vegas
RITA TENE BIMBO, 40
You may remember the Tene-Bimbo Gypsy Clan from the San Francisco Foxglove Murders case
It was RITA’s mother, MARY TENE-STEINER, and older sister, THERESA TENE (AKA Angela Bufford), who were charged with the poison-deaths of six elderly San Francisco widowers, after stealing millions.
Read about RITA TENE in Las Vegas
- Manhattan, NY - Woman Charged With Tricking Aging Men out of More Than $400,000
- Boca Raton, FL - Convicted Sweetheart Swindler Charged in Another Exploitation Case
- Chicago, IL - Sham Marriage Drains 92-Year-Old Man’s Savings
- Hialeah, FL - Traveling Criminal Group Targets So. Florida Elderly
- Hartford, CT - Couple Steals from Blind Woman, 96, After Pushing Their Way Into Home
- Westfield, IN - Home Improvement Fraud: Man Accused of Preying on Homeowners in Driveway Sealing Scam
- Fairfield, CT - Bimbo Gypsy Arrested in Home-Repair Scam
- ►Months Earlier: NJ Man Charged with Defrauding Elderly Victims out of $32,000
- Woodland Hills, CA - Self-Proclaimed Psychic Arrested for Grand Theft Following Investigation by Bob Nygaard, PI
- Minden, NV - Men Face Exploitation Charges After Accosting, Extorting Carsen City Man
- Dearborn Heights, MI - Fourth-time habitual offender: Metro-Detroit Woman Swindles Man of $200k; Claims Some was Being Spent Helping ‘Orphans'
- Los Angeles, CA - Insurance Fraud: Father-Daughter Team Staging Car Crashes Charged with Felony Fraud
- Broward County. FL - Family of Thieves Arrested in South Fla. Distractions Burglaries
- Somerville, NJ - Dozen Indicted: 51 Counts of Racketeering for Notorious East Coast Gypsy Criminals
- Pierce County, WA - Madonna Debby Steve, Married to 83-Year-Old, is Charged with Stealing $650k from Another Man with Dementia, Age 86
- Sacramento, CA - Merino and George Gypsies Murder Compassionate Elderly Man Who Took Them In
- ►UPDATE: SWEETHEART MURDERERS GET LIFE IN PRISON: Sandy George, Michael Moreno & Kids, Kevin and Peaches Moreno, Get Life Without Parole for Killing Sacramento Man
- Santa Clara Co, CA - Gina Mitchell Tricks Elderly Man Into Marriage, Scams $350,000
- New York City, NY - Priscilla Kelly Delmaro Arrested in $700,000 Fortunetelling Scam
- Somerville, NJ - Imposter burglars pose as utility workers: Stanley Mitchell, Sonny Mitchell, Steve John/Steven Miller Charged with Racketeering in Multi-State Crime Spree
- Long Beach, CA - Elderly Homeowner Shoots Woman in Home-Invasion Robbery - Gus Adams, Mother Ruby Adams Arrested
- El Cerrito, CA - Donna Racheal Demitro, Johnny Lee Arrested for Robbing, Beating Elderly Couple
- Edgecomb, MN - Los Angeles Woman, 89, Vanishes, Found Alone in Maine 4 Years Later
- Tempe, AZ - Ruby Marks & Son Rocky Marks Scam Elderly Man of 100k for Liver Transplant, Fake Business
- Dallas, TX - Vickie Steve Romances Elderly Men from Dallas to Seattle in Sweetheart Swindles
- Seattle, WA - Yana Ristick & Husband Michael Evans Bilk Men in Their 80s & 90s in Romance Scams (video)
- Portland, OR - Tina Ephrem, Tim Ephrem Elder Fraud Unit Exposes 'Trusted Friend' as Con Artist
- Tacoma, WA - Sweetheart Swindler Rachel "Annie" Marks Accused of Murder by Victim's Daughter
- Riverside County, CA - Fraudulent Predators Extremely Supportive While Involved with Seniors
- Philadephia, PA, Houston, TX - Crystal 'Pinky' Johns & Patrick Stanley Steal $650,000 from Elderly Men in Pennylvania and Texas
- King County, WA - Gypsy Woman Blames 'Hard Life,' Romani Upbringing for Brutal Killing of Navy Veteran
- San Jose, CA - Shirley Stanley, Anthony Costello Steal Over $200,000 in Classic Gypsy Sweetheart Scam
Candy Ely of Chicago Pulls $1.2 Million Sweetheart Swindle
A decade of deception against an Oregon timber heir is the largest sweetheart scam investigators have seen
RACHEL LEE, PORSHA V. LEE
Photo: Multnomah Co. Sheriff, Portland, OR
Gypsy Psychics Scam Twelve to $20 Million from Oregon Tree Farmer
May 14, 2014 - Ralph Raines JR led a fantasy life. At 66, the heir to a third-generation Washington County logging company had once faced the prospect of a lonely existence. He was without close family and, as prosecutors now say, he was a bit socially awkward.
But he had found a beautiful young wife—or she had seemed to find him, actually. Mary Marks was thin and blond and preferred heavy makeup. She had presented Raines with a baby boy she said was their son, a child who sat on his lap and called him "Daddy".
What's more, a devoted caregiver named Rachel Lee, who had looked after Raines' father, was now helping Raines handle the millions of dollars that came from the family's timber company.
Raines' life had gone on like this for nearly a decade—until March, when police told him the life around him was a hoax.
Mary wasn't really his wife, and the boy wasn't his son. And Rachel, the caregiver? She was, in reality, Mary's mother and the architect of a yearslong scam that, authorities say, drained Raines of at least $12 million and as much as $20 million. Prosecutors say Raines is left with $200,000.
It's a classic con called the "sweetheart swindle" — a younger woman ingratiates herself with an older, vulnerable man so she can get access to his money.
Investigators say these scams are on the rise as the population ages. "Once you get your hooks in, it's easy money," says Jay Pentheny, the elder abuse detective for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, who has investigated many "sweetheart" cases. "This is very prevalent, and it's getting worse. I guarantee there are so many more cases going on in Portland that we don't know about."
Prosecutors say they've never seen a sweetheart fraud as large or as egregious as the one waged against Raines. The scammers allegedly bought luxury cars and financed trips to Las Vegas by liquidating Raines' bank accounts and selling off his properties—all while keeping Raines isolated and confused.
Rachel Lee, 43, and her daughter, Porsha Lee, 24, who played the wife "Mary" in the alleged scam, were arraigned May 9 in U.S. District Court in Portland on charges of wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.
Rachel Lee's boyfriend, Blancey Lee, and another daughter, Samantha Lee, are also named in the 13-count indictment.
"The defendants, their family and their friends lived a lavish lifestyle on the back of this victim," Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Maddux told a federal judge at the Lees' arraignment. "In terms of sweetheart scams, it was like winning the Powerball."
(Cont.) Read the full story at Willamette Week: A Fortune Felled
- ►MORE STORIES CONTINUED
A Personal Note to
Since I know you’ll see this
Tina: I told you, very clearly, in August 2013 that you would only hear from me one time by phone, and that was with the direction to make it right with my dad by returning what was taken from him. Your phone number matters very little to me, Tina - I've always had your phone numbers (most times before my dad did), and still never cared much. What DOES interest me is knowing where you are, and at the time of writing this, I know precisely where you are, and will continue to keep tabs on your location and will continue to share this information with others in situations that I deem appropriate. I will also continue to share knowledge of your criminal activities, past and present, with others, including photos of you and your criminal associates and any activities that I deem for the 'greater good' of helping your potential future targets. This may indeed interfere with your life, but I will do what is necessary, regardless of the cost. I said in August that I would put the same time and effort into exposing you publicly that I would put into a 150k a year job. I feel that's only fair.
You were told to contact ME directly if you chose to make arrangements to avoid this -- not my father, as I never doubted it would lead to you slithering around attempting to bilk more money for your husband and kids - and, it did. Unlike my dad, who continued to ask for his car and be put off time after time, I state my requests only once. What happened from that point forward, was always up to you. You knew I would make this public.
I will never, ever lose interest in you or this case. This domain has been secured through 2024, at which time, I will RENEW IT for 10 more years to ensure that your story stays at the forefront and that all of your faces, names and scams rank well in the search engines for many, many years to come, so that others may avoid meeting the same financial devastation you dished out to my dad. I told you once, you picked the wrong old guy, and unlike you, I do not lie.
Welcome to your limelight, Tina Costello ~ This is for your future.
THANKS FOR READING - I HOPE IT CAN HELP YOUR OWN FAMILY MEMBER IDENTIFY WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THEM
Thank you for taking the time to read my dad's story. I hope that having published this site can help someone else in the future (ahh, the power of Google). When this disaster unfolded in 2013, I spend months searching for information on the people above, chasing aliases and traded names, and sifting through backgrounds of people that didn't make sense. Now I know that the next round of people getting scammed won't have to search so hard. :)
And a big thanks to all the people who have contacted me with information! I never expected to have thousands of people caring enough to read this story, much less wanting to share it with others. Between the crimes against elderly and car schemes, I've been contacted by neighborhood committees, local organizations, colleges and our story was even mentioned on a New York City talk radio show recently! Amazing ~ and again, thanks so much for reading!
Gypsy Scams, Fraud and Elderly Sweetheart Swindles
- What is a Sweetheart Swindle?
- The gypsy scam artists who took advantage of my father: Photos
- Similar Scams in the News (continued from above)
- Contact the site
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