Widow loses $270,000 to Match.com catfish

Conman used former Bosnian ambassador's photos

 (WKMG) Diane Amanda Standish thought she found love on Match.com last year, but in just a few short months, she lost her life savings to a con man with a German accent who used photographs of a former Bosnian ambassador to create an online bachelor persona.

“I never thought I could fall in love with somebody on the telephone,” Standish said. “But for some reason, he just said the right things to me.”

He called himself Jerry Michael, aka Darnell Michael, a German contractor developing a project in 
Bakersfield, California.

Despite cautions on the Match.com website not to give money to anyone you meet online, Standish 
handed over thousands without reservation.

She said she withdrew cash from her account and deposited the funds into accounts  with Wells Fargo and SunTrust.

“I’ve talked to a million people who said they met on eHarmony or Match.com and they’re happily married,"  Standish said. “So I didn’t have any reason to question it.”

Standish said Michael claimed he had fallen on tough times and needed help with legal costs.

“I went through my bank accounts and it was $270,000,"  she said. “He could be anybody, anywhere. I just don’t know.”

In a photograph of the man who Diane knew as Jerry Michael, aka Darnell Michael, he was standing next to a statue of Mother Teresa.

After reviewing hundreds of online photographs, there was a clear connection: The man in the photo was not Jerry Michael or Darnell Michael, it was Flamur Gashi, a former Bosnian ambassador.

Gashi is married with three children and apparently has no idea he is being used in an online romance scheme.

Standish said Michael told her he was coming to Orlando to marry her, which is why she decided to send him the money.

“I wish to God I could find him,” she said. “I loved him and he said he loved me.”

Detectives told Standish his email led them to South Africa, her case is currently “inactive” and there is no chance of getting her money back.

She said the biggest mistake she made was to leave the Match.com site and give him her personal cellphone.

For more information on catfish and imposter romance schemes, click here.       

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.