A man accused of swindling $80,000 from a Georgia woman he met online has been arrested in Tennessee – and is wanted in other states for similar scams, authorities said.
John Martin Hill, 35, connected with the woman from Alpharetta, Georgia, on Match.com in late March, the Gwinnett County Police Department said Wednesday.
Hill took the woman out on a date the same day they met, and the two agreed to get married within a week of meeting, authorities said.
He told the woman he’s a millionaire, and they decided to invest in a love nest. The woman gave her now fiancé $80,000 to help with the home’s purchase, police said.
“During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together. They went house-hunting and selected a home they were interested in,” police said.
When he got the money, he cut all contact with the woman, police said.
He had another home and another family
As investigators looked into the case, they unveiled a scam that went beyond Georgia.
The man lived with another woman and a child in Duluth, Georgia – and he’s wanted in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey for similar scams, authorities said.
Since then, several women have come forward and said they were in a relationship with him, or knew women who were. Hill has changed his name at least five times in two and a half years, police said.
Police arrested him Wednesday at a hotel in Franklin, Tennessee.
“He attempted to evade … officers by darting into a hotel conference room and hiding under a table. Officers ordered Hill from under that table and arrested him,” the Franklin Police Department said in a statement.
Police urge women to be cautious
Authorities applauded the woman who reported the scam, saying she likely saved others from a similar fate.
“By sharing this story, it is our hope that he is not able to victimize any other women using this scam,” Gwinnett County Police said. “These types of con men are very good at manipulating their victims. They tend to say everything that a woman wants to hear.”
Hill is being held on a $500,000 bond as he awaits extradition to Georgia, where he faces a charge of theft by deception – a felony. Information on his attorney was not immediately available.
Romance scams are rampant in the US
Online scams are widespread in the US, and are more popular than any other type of consumer fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. It estimates that Americans lost $143 million in online romance scams last year.
“Reports indicate the scammers are active on dating apps, but also on social media sites that aren’t generally used for dating. For example, many people say the scam started with a Facebook message,” the FTC says.
Romance con artists start by trying to steal your heart before they go for your money, it says.