HOUSTON – A 65-year-old North Texas woman is out $100,000 after she fell in love with someone pretending to be Bruno Mars, the famous entertainer.
Harris County cyber-crimes prosecutors said someone overseas befriended her on Instagram, convinced her that he was Bruno Mars and that he needed help with his touring expenses.
“West Africa or China. I’ve seen them come back to Iran, even North Korea on occasion,” said Keith Houston, a Harris County Assistant District Attorney with the Cyber Crimes Division.
According to court documents, a man identifying himself as “Bruno man” promised he was quitting his current tour to be with her.
“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. They are very much sophisticated con artists,” Houston said.
Authorities said Basil Amadi and Chinwendu Azuonwu are the two men in Houston who opened up the two different bank accounts where the woman was instructed to send the money. One check for $10,000 and another for $90,000.
“What these people do is they will recruit people to open up bank accounts. So what you have is, you have the people at the bottom opening the bank accounts, people in the middle that are doing the recruiting and communicating with the hackers and then the hackers,” Houston said.
One of those men in Houston went before a judge Tuesday to hear the allegations against him. Prosecutors hope they both cooperate so they can find out more about who recruited them.
“Because that’s who we are interested in,” Houston said.
The pair is charged with money laundering. If convicted, they could spend two to 10 years in prison.