Fake Bruno Mars account scammed woman out of £72k after she ‘fell in love’

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A lovelorn woman who thought she was in an online romance with platinum-selling singer-songwriter Bruno Mars was defrauded of $100,000 (just over £72,000) by two men, it is alleged.

The 63-year-old Texas woman told police she had created an Instagram profile in the hope of finding love.

Someone claiming to be the Uptown Funk hitmaker contacted her and claimed to be interested in forming a relationship, the court heard.

The North Richland Hills woman “fell in love” with the fake Bruno across numerous interactions on Instagram and Google Hangouts.

The account allegedly sent her innumerable photos from Mars’s US tour “proving” he was the Grammy-winning artist and convinced her that he could abandon the rest of the shows and come to meet her if she would just send him cash for “tour expenses”.

According to investigators, the victim was asked to make out a $10,000 cheque to a "friend of the band" and then, two days later, send more, this time amounting to $90,000.

The bank accounts which the fake Bruno claimed belonged to a "friend of the band” in fact belonged to Houston resident Chinwendu Azuonwu and his alleged accomplice, Basil Amadi.

Keith Houston, a Harris County Assistant District Attorney with the Cyber Crimes Division told Click 2 Houston that online fraudsters can be very convincing: “They will spend months talking to people online. Sometimes they will even borrow a little bit of money and return it to build up trust.

"They’re not stupid people, these scammers," he added. "They are very much sophisticated con artists.”

Azuonwu was charged with third-degree felony money laundering last month but was only arrested this week.

Questioned by police, Azuonwu claimed not to know Amadi but interviewed separately Amadi told a different story.

Azuonwu also said he did not know how $90,000 came to be deposited into his account, according to the criminal complaint. The money has since been withdrawn and cannot now be accounted for.

Keith Houston says it’s likely that the pair were working for a wider network of fraudsters and that he hopes the investigation will lead to the person or person in charge.

In Harris County Probable Cause Court, Azuonwu's bail was set at $30,000. If convicted, each of the accused faces up to 10 years in state prison.

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