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Press Release

United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison Announces First of Its Kind Civil Action in District to Combat International Fraud Ring

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

DETROIT – United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced today that a Jackson resident has agreed to a court order preventing her from participating in behavior that facilitates a suspected international fraud ring.  This civil action is the first of its kind in the Eastern District of Michigan and is part of a broader trend in recent years by the Department of Justice to disrupt international fraud rings that target United States citizens through fake social media profiles.

As part of a civil consent decree approved by U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman, Holly Locke, 70, is permanently prohibited from assisting, facilitating, or participating in any romance scam.  A romance scam is typically a scheme in which an individual starts talking to a stranger they meet online, not knowing the stranger intends to defraud them.  Eventually, after developing a friendship or romantic relationship, the fraudster will ask the victim to send them money based on false representations about the need for the funds.  If the victim does not have money to send, sometimes the fraudster will use that person as a money transmitter by routing payments from other victims to that person and instructing that person to transfer the money to the fraudster.  A money transmitter plays a critical role in the scheme, by receiving the money from other victims and obscuring the transfer of funds from those victims to the fraudster.

Locke is alleged to have acted as a money transmitter after meeting and developing a romantic relationship with a fraudster online.  Once the relationship developed, Locke then began receiving numerous packages from strangers containing money, which she passed on to her purported fiancé/husband.  The money was sent from victims who believed they were assisting their own online romantic partners and friends.  Locke did not admit liability as part of the consent decree.

“This office is committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect Americans from fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Ison. “This consent decree cuts off the flow of money from the victims to the international fraudsters behind these scams.  In an increasingly online world, people are under constant threat from unscrupulous people trying to compromise personal information or otherwise defraud them.  This case should put fraudsters on notice that we will protect our citizens from this particularly cruel type of victimization.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to safeguarding all Americans from individuals who attempt to exploit them through fraudulent and deceptive schemes. Today's civil action, unprecedented in the Eastern District of Michigan, should serve as a warning to anyone engaging in or abetting similar scams – you will be held accountable and brought to justice," said Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Detroit Division.

The agencies involved in this effort urge consumers to be on the lookout for signs someone is trying to recruit them to receive and transmit fraud proceeds.  Do not agree to receive money or checks mailed to you or sent to your bank account for someone you have met over the phone or online.  Do not open a bank or cryptocurrency account at someone else’s direction.  Fraudsters will lie to persuade you to help them.  They may falsely tell you that they are helping you get a lottery prize, initiate a purported romantic relationship, and then tell you that they need money, or pretend to offer you a job, an opportunity to invest in a business venture, or the chance to help in a charitable effort.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud, and promptly reporting certain financial losses due to fraud can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.  English, Spanish, and other languages are available.  The Federal Trade Commission also provides a hotline at 877-FTC-HELP and a website at to receive consumer complaints.

More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage.  For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit  The Justice Department provides information about a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which are available at

Updated May 29, 2024

Consumer Protection