CHARLOTTE — Love means never having to say you’re guilty.
In Michael Moore’s case, a Charlotte jury took care of that late Wednesday.
After a two-day trial, the 39-year-old Liberian national was convicted of three federal crimes linked to his role in an online romance conspiracy that scammed at least 30 elderly female victims out of $1.5 million.
Moore and the ring of love fraudsters trolled Facebook, dating websites and other platforms to court older victims from around the country. They often claimed to be working overseas and in need of money to buy plane tickets or cover other courtship expenses. The scamming — and expressions of true love — only stopped when the money ran out.
Elder fraud has become a multibillion-dollar industry victimizing millions of Americans. Romance scams are becoming increasingly common as predators exploit loneliness and the desire for companionship.
In Moore’s ring, according to prosecutors, he served as the bag man, an appropriate role seeing that he was originally stopped by federal authorities trying to fly out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport with a brown paper bag carrying $75,000 in cash, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says.
The Philadelphia-area resident, also known as “Bobby Smith,” flew city to city to collect money from a host of victims. According to prosecutors, Moore occasionally shot photos and videos of the piles of stolen cash, bragging about his take.
When he was stopped at a security gate at the Charlotte airport in March 2018 with $75,000 in cash from one of his victims, Moore told federal agents that he had received the money from the Liberian government to buy used cars. After the agents seized the money, Moore made similar claims in court filings to get it back.
This week, the jury convicted Moore of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to a U.S. agency. Altogether, he faces a combined maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.