What is a Sweetheart Swindle?

Sweetheart Swindler Tina Costello didn't invent elderly sweetheart scams; They've been going on for years in the gypsy criminal underworld, and authorities say that, unfortunately, only about 1 in 10 of these frauds are ever reported to police. 

The excerpt below was originally posted under the Organized Crime Unit of the Phoenix Police website, and is no longer available. I'm reposting a text version found online at Crimes of Persuasion. 

Excellent coverage of how female gypsies and their accomplices defraud elderly males. 

Phoenix Police on Sweetheart Scams 

The concept is quite basic; man falls in love with young gypsy girl. Gypsy girl obtains as much as she can from the man until he has no more to give. Then girl flees.

Of course in this case, young doesn't always mean a teenager. The gypsy woman could be in her 40's to 50's. But to a 90-year-old man, she is young.

The scam works as follows. First, they profile the victim who is first targeted by their age. The older they are, the better. From the late 60's onwards the victims are extremely vulnerable, easily manipulated or intimidated, and forgetful. They also usually have easier access to cash through retirement accounts and credit availability.

The gypsy perpetrator knows that elderly men are lonely, having been widowed for numerous years and often haven't had sexual relationships in recent memory. The victims' children are usually distant, middle-aged and often spend very little physical time with them.

Where do the gypsies find the victims? Almost anywhere! However, local grocery stores, banks, and the biggest target, Casinos are popular contact points.

Next is the approach. It starts out as simple contact. The gypsy girl will approach and start a simple conversation during which she will flirt with and flatter the elderly victim attempting to find out their name, living arrangements, and marital status. This is, of course, done by clever conversation and in a way that is non-invasive.

At some point, she will walk him to his car and offer to help in the future by taking him to the store or cleaning his house. She will try to exchange telephone numbers at this time. Usually the old guy is so starved for attention and conversation he will exchange numbers. The gypsy's husband or family members will then follow the victim to see where he lives.

The gypsy will then start calling the victim and/or show up at his house. Even if she wasn't, she will make the victim believe he might have invited her, deliberately working on the victim's potential forgetfulness.

At some point early on, she will try to reel in the victim through a sympathetic story referencing lack of finances. Usually idle comments about not being able to get a job and unable to feed her children. She might then ask to borrow some money. The elderly victim usually gives grocery money at this point, either out of sympathy or feeling pressured.

She continues the sympathy routine, continually escalating the finances needed. Such as "I'm about to get evicted from my apartment, what am I to do?" The victim will then rent an apartment for the gypsy, in his name. She then expresses the need to have it furnished then takes the elderly victim to a store and charges thousands of dollars in furniture in his name.

Then of course, comes the story of "I need to get a job so I can pay you back. But I can't get a job without a car." So, off they go to a car dealer where he usually walks away purchasing an extravagant vehicle in the range of $30,000 to $60,000 dollars. And don't forget the trip to the jewelry store, where he is talked into purchasing a pair of Rolex watches or a diamond ring.

Once in place, she will introduce her gypsy husband as her brother. They team up and work on ways to bilk money from the victim. While the girl works the sweetheart scam, the gypsy man will try and get the victim to go into partnership on some scheme such as "I'm a car body-man. With your money and my knowledge of repairing cars, we can go into business together. You buy the used cars and I'll repair them, then sell them." If this occurs, the gypsy will sell the cars the victim buys, but continually lie about the sales.

At some early stage of the sympathy routine, the gypsy will tell the victim she loves him. She will "expose" herself to the victim, continually trying to entice him through emotions of love and sex. Very rarely though will the gypsy girl allow the victim to kiss or have a sexual relationship, telling him it's against her religion to allow such a thing unless they are married.

Should this be considered you will soon hear the sad story of "What's going to happen to me when you die. Who will take care of me?" The gypsy will attempt to talk the elderly victim into taking out a large life insurance policy, naming her as beneficiary.

The sweetheart scam will continue until either the money runs out, the victim dies and/or fear that the police might become involved.

Very rarely will the victim call the police. Usually it's the victim's family that eventually discovers the scam after numerous months of operation and reports it against the victim's wishes. When confronted by police, the victim may or may not remember every incident in which he's been scammed for money but will generally remember that the girl promised to pay him back. The victim will also be reluctant because he's in love, scared, or embarrassed.

If the gypsies believe they are going to get caught, they will flee and change their identities. If caught, they will offer the victim "most" of the property back. This of course being the car they've been driving for the last year, or the furniture. Any cash or jewelry will be gone.

The gypsies will then tell law enforcement it wasn't their intent to steal from the victim, they promised to pay everything back saying "It's not their fault the elderly man was lonely and had nobody to take him to the store or doctor. Where was his family?" The gypsies will also justify any items obtained as gifts.

Prosecution is often difficult because the victim is reluctant to assist, and/or his memory is so poor that he makes a bad witness. Prosecution will also take into account whether the victim was a willing participant!

So why is the sweetheart scam so devastating? After all, the old man is with this young girl in his last days of life! It's his dream come true. If it makes him happy, so be it!

On the other hand, at some point the gypsies flee with the property and leave the elderly victims with little or no cash left, unable to make the monthly payments the credit companies still hold them responsible for. Victims rarely report the crime and simply live their remaining life destitute and distraught, with only a meager retirement salary. 

These are precisely the tactics that Tina Costello and her son, Jacob, and husband, David Steve/David Marks used to scam my father, remarkably down to the detail: 

Once in place, she will introduce her gypsy husband as her brother. They team up and work on ways to bilk money from the victim. While the girl works the sweetheart scam, the gypsy man will try and get the victim to go into partnership on some scheme such as, “I’m a car body-man. With your money and my knowledge of repairing cars, we can go into business together."

Read the full story: Tina Costello - Gypsy Scams, Fraud and Elderly Sweetheart Swindles 

© Life of Scams 2014-2017. Exposing Nina Costello aka TINA COSTELLO, Tina Marks, Tina Stevens, her son Jacob and husband, David Steve/David Marks, and their financial scams of the elderly in Arizona and California.