Skip to main content
Press Release

Liberian National Is Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For His Role In An Online Romance Scam Targeting Elderly Victims

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad Jr. sentenced Michael Moore, 40, a Liberian national, to 10 years in prison for his role in an online romance scheme that targeted older adults, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Judge Conrad also ordered Moore to pay more than $1.7 million as restitution to the victims of the fraud.  

Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in North Carolina and South Carolina, and Barry Chastain, Port Director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Area in Charlotte join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement. 

According to court documents and court proceedings, including evidence presented at Moore’s October 2021 trial, beginning in January 2016, Moore and others engaged in a fraudulent scheme to defraud unsuspecting victims, many of whom were in or near retirement, by perpetrating an online romance scam. According to court records, Moore and his co-conspirators generally targeted victims through Facebook, senior dating websites, and other social media platforms, convincing victims through online communications that they were romantically interested in the victims. The fraudsters, who often claimed they were located overseas for work, would start requesting gift cards or small amounts of money, often falsely telling the victims they needed the money to pay for airfare or other travel expenses to visit the victims. Generally, the fraudsters would then up the ante and request more money to supposedly pay for additional fictitious fees or costs in order for the visits to take place or for packages to clear customs. Evidence at trial showed that Moore and his co-conspirators would continue to take the victims’ money until there was no more money left. 

Trial evidence showed that Moore served as the scheme’s “money man” or “bagman.” As part of the scheme, Moore purchased one-way tickets and flew around the country to meet with and pick up money from unsuspecting victims located in multiple cities. Moore was caught trying to fly out of Charlotte with $75,000 in cash, which he had collected from a victim. During the trial, the government presented evidence of pictures and videos that depicted Moore with piles of cash, bragging about the money he had taken from victims. In total, Moore and his co-conspirators stole over $1.5 million from at least 30 victims through this romance scheme. 

In addition, evidence at trial further established that Moore lied to CBP officers and HSI agents when he was questioned at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after he was caught attempting to carry $75,000 in cash through airport security. Instead of telling law enforcement the truth – that he had received the cash from a romance scam victim – Moore told law enforcement that he had received the money from a Liberian government official to buy used cars. Later, Moore made similar false statements and representations on a federal form in an attempt to have the $75,000 returned to him. 

A federal jury convicted Moore of wire fraud and two counts of making a false statement to an agency of the United States. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

In determining today’s sentence, the Court highlighted the heinous nature of the crimes and Moore’s callous cruelty toward his victims, which caused the victims tremendous financial and emotional hardships.

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney King thanked CBP and HSI for handling the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maria Vento and Daniel Ryan, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.

* * *

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Elder Justice Initiative aims to combat elder financial exploitation by investigating and prosecuting financial scams that target seniors; educating older adults on how to identify scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud; and promoting greater coordination with law enforcement partners. For more information please visit:

Examples of financial scams targeting seniors are:

  • Lottery Phone Scams – Callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before they can receive lottery winnings.
  • Grandparent Scams – Fraudsters convince seniors that their grandchildren are in trouble and need money to make rent, repair a car, or even money for bail.
  • Romance scams – Victims believe they are in an online relationship and their love interest needs money to visit them in the U.S. or some other purpose.
  • Federal Agent Imposter Scams – Scammers pose as federal agents, including IRS agents, claiming the victim owes a debt for a crime committed, or for unpaid taxes.
  • Sham business opportunities – Fraudsters convince victims to invest in sham business opportunities or investments.

To avoid falling victim to a financial scam:

  • Don’t share personal information with anyone you don’t know.
  • Don’t pay a fee for a prize or lottery winning.
  • Don’t click on pop-up ads or messages.
  • Delete phishing emails and ignore harassing phone calls.
  • Don’t send gift cards, checks, money orders, wire money, or give your bank account information to a stranger.
  • Don’t fall for a high-pressure sales pitch or a “lucrative” business deal.
  • If a scammer approaches you, take the time to talk to a friend or family member.
  • Keep in mind that if you send money once, you’ll be a target for life.
  • Remember, it’s not rude to say, “NO.”
  • A good rule of thumb is, if it’s too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.

If you have been contacted by a scammer or believe you have fallen victim to a scam, please contact the Justice Department’s Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-Fraud-11 (1-833-372-8311). The National Elder Fraud hotline was created for the public to report fraud against individuals who are age 60 or older. For more information about the hotline, please visit

Updated August 16, 2022

Elder Justice
Financial Fraud