81-year-old ‘money mule’ pleads guilty in romance fraud scheme

Missouri

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

ST. LOUIS – An elderly Kirkwood woman pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to participating in various fraud schemes on behalf of an online romance fraudster.

Prosecutors said Glenda Seim began an online relationship with a person claiming to be an American with business interests in Nigeria. Over the years, this individual would ask Seim to help him in paying fees, taxes, and penalties to the Nigerian government or his business partners. The scammer claimed he could not leave Nigeria until everything was paid in full.

Seim, 81, began sending this person money from her Social Security retirement benefits and pension. He also asked Seim to pawn electronic equipment that he directed other people to send to her and then forward those proceeds to him.

Seim participated in other schemes to help her mystery love interest get more money, such as: receiving MoneyGram wire transfers from senders she did not know; depositing counterfeit and fraudulently obtained checks into financial accounts she opened; allowing her romantic interest to transfer funds from accounts of various businesses into her accounts; and accepting unemployment insurance payments on behalf of people she never met.

She also deposited a check in the amount of $100,000 from another romance fraud victim. She kept a portion of those funds and sent the remainder to her online love interest.

Prosecutors said Seim acted as a money mule for the scammer.

According to the Department of Justice, a money mule is “a person who receives fraudulently obtained money and merchandise on behalf of a scammer, and then forwards the proceeds to the scammer.”

Between June 2014 and Feb. 2021, Seim attempted to conduct fraudulent transactions between $550,000 and $1.5 million.

Seim pleaded guilty to two counts of identity theft. She’ll be sentenced on Feb. 10, 2022.

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