If you have been scammed, please post here and share your experience; it may help others avoid the same situation!
#404763 by summer 2 Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:13 pm
Hi all

I have been scammed by a guy posing as a sculptor. He goes by the name Mark Pinarello, but his story is identical to one posted on here back in 2014 by lilyc. Her scammer used the name Richard Williams, but the stories are virtually identical. Lilyc bravely told her account of what happened and even posted the emails ‘Richard’ sent her. Imagine my horror when I saw the same words that Mark had sent to me posted 6 years earlier. I can still feel the pain in my chest as I realised I too had been scammed. But it’s thanks to Lilyc that I discovered the truth, so I am posting my story on here in the hope that, similarly, my account will help others to identify the truth.

I had lost my partner suddenly to a heart attack some months prior and joined a UK online dating site and it was I who found Mark’s profile in mid-December, not the other way round. We exchanged messages on the website for a couple of days. He explained he was a sculptor, living in Solihull, West Midlands (half an hour from me) and that he was travelling to South Africa to get materials. He would be gone for about a week but would be back before Christmas. We exchanged numbers and messaged and chatted on Whatsapp. He said he was Italian, and oh my god… his voice got me. He sent me a picture of him having arrived in Cape Town (remember ‘airport photo’) and he looked dashingly handsome. I was totally smitten [I didn’t think, who took the picture? Who takes a picture of themselves arriving at an airport?]. Even now I can see the picture and hear his voice in my head. He was charming from the beginning and I loved it. When his first email came I thought, “oh my god.. so much info… who does this?” but I went with it. Being Italian, I made excuses for his English. Although it was good, it was not perfect. And so it begun. Messaging through the day. How he couldn’t wait to hear my voice in the evening. We would talk for 2 – 2.5hours sometimes. I was totally in love. He talked about ‘the connection’ we had. He could make me smile into the phone. But more.. my body was responding to him [sorry to go into such detail, but he totally had me].

He was due to fly back to the UK on 23rd Dec, and I had booked dinner for Xmas Eve – a beautiful restaurant, and we were going to meet there. I knew exactly what I was going to wear… we discussed how I totally wanted to ‘blow him away’ when he set eyes on me. And then on 23rd Dec he said the warehouse who were due to ship his goods was shut – an extra days’ holiday which he wasn’t aware of. He wouldn’t be able to travel back without his goods – he’d have to change his flight until after Christmas. I was beyond gutted. I was so desperate to meet him and just the thought of having to wait another couple of days was killing me. He said the same to me. How he couldn’t wait to see me and was so desperate. I went to stay with my family for Christmas. We messaged and spoke on the phone constantly. He had rescheduled his flight to travel back on 26th Dec. South Africa are 2 hours ahead of the UK and I woke up late on 26th morning – I had 4 missed calls from him. When I called him he said his wallet had been stolen. He was devasted. He had the warehouse staff and his hotel bills to pay. He asked me to send £6500 to a Nigel Mayhew, who he said was staying in the same hotel. Nigel would ‘cash’ the money and give it to Mark. I asked Mark if he trusted this Nigel and he said yes he did. I had a moment’s doubt – was this real. But time was ticking on… Mark needed the cash so he could get his flight out of South Africa. I set about trying to make the transfer. My mother asked what I was doing – she worked it out from my panic and from overhearing me talking to the bank – ironically, they stopped the payment going through because they feared it could be a scam. I had to call them up and tell them it wasn’t – and instruct them to make the payment! I told my mother to just leave it – I knew what I was doing, and it was none of her business. The payment went through. I left my family on 27th to drive home. Mark was due to travel back on 30th; he was going to be home on 31st and we were going to have our first date on New Years Eve. On the morning of 30th, we spoke – he was at Cape Town airport – he was finally on his way home. By the afternoon, I had a call from him. He had got to Johannesburg enroute to Switzerland and then Birmingham, but Johannesburg had seized his goods. They said because the value was £3m, he had to pay 10% tax in order to let the goods leave the country. He was actually asking me for £300,000.! He was desperate. The pressure was intense.. “How much can you come up with honey, you know I just want to come home to you so we can start our life together, please honey, you have to do something about this…” I said there was absolutely nothing I could do. And that’s when I really started to have doubts. He sent me the seizure notice … I went onto the South African customs website – the logo looked slightly different. They also listed this as an example of a possible scam. I had wanted him to have something when he arrived back on 31st, so I sent a “Happy New Year” card to the address he had given me in Solihull. I woke on 31st and suddenly I didn’t believe any of it. I looked for ‘sculptor scammer’ on the internet and came across lilyc’s account of Richard Williams. The story was the same – the emails identical; I couldn’t believe it. I decided I would drive to the address he had given me. I was actually going to leave a box of cereal in a bag on the doorstep for when he arrived home. We had joked about having cereal together, so I thought I would use that as an excuse. I found the house. As I walked up to the door, I could see an elderly lady sitting in a chair. There should be no one there. I rang the bell and pretended I was looking for a lady … the elderly lady said this was her house, and I must be mistaken. I questioned it and she said she and her husband had lived there for 30 years. I said that I had sent a card to Mark; she said oh yes, she had got the card .. she went and got it and had written over it “not known at this address”.. I said Mark had told me he lived there and even had a dog that was being looked after by the neighbour. The woman said there was no dog, but said to go and speak with the neighbour who would confirm this. I did.. I must have looked a complete idiot. But there – he did not live at this address. From there I drove straight to the Police station and told them I had been scammed. They told me to contact Action Fraud and my bank. Both organisations were brilliant. I felt such an idiot telling them what had happened but they took it seriously. The bank said they would immediately try to get the money back.

Still I kept talking to Mark. Even though I had reported him as a scammer, I was [and still am] in love with him [or rather the fantasy]. I put the ‘airport photo’ into reverse Google images – and it came up.. with the man, but with a different foreground and the word ‘scammer’ written across it. Then I came across a website with all the pictures he had sent me on it.

I actually told him I had gone to the address. He was angry and said I had no right to do that. I said I had gone to leave a present – customary in the UK for Christmas. He said the lady who answered the door was a helper who cleaned the house for him. She would have denied all knowledge of him because there had been a kidnap in the family [really??] Still I believed him.

The bank managed to get £3500 back to me. I told him the bank had checked the payment and flagged it up as suspicious. He was asking me to send him money for hotel bills and I said I couldn’t because the bank had locked down my account and it was under investigation. He seemed to believe me. I was lucky to get back part of the money. Had he emptied the account, I would not have got anything back.

All through January and up to last week, I have been playing along with him. I actually believed I could ‘trick’ him into sending the balance back. But of course, nothing has come back. Even with all this proof, there was still a part of me that believed he was real. I am fortunate to have a very loyal colleague who, having seen the torment and emotional pain I have gone through, offered to confront him for me, which she did this week. She spoke with him on the phone – asked him why he was doing this to me and basically said she knew he was a lying, cheating, manipulating b*&$£*d. She took over my phone and told him to send a picture of his passport and a selfie immediately. Of course, he didn’t. And then his last message to me said he would get the balance of my money back to me, but until then I would not hear from him. That was Tuesday. Now it’s Sunday and I haven’t heard from him. I have sent him at least a dozen messages, saying, let’s talk… that I still care for him.. asking him to send the pictures. I can no longer see if he’s online on Whatsapp… but I can see he has read the messages.

Fact – he was a fake.
1. He claimed to bank with HSBC.. He said he went into the Cape Town branch when his wallet was stolen and they would not help him, they said he would have to go back to the UK – that is utter rubbish
2. He claimed the video chat didn’t work on his phone – really?
3. If he was a renowned sculptor, where was his website? He said it was down at the moment
4. The address he gave in the UK was false
5. The photos he sent of himself were photoshopped – and they had ‘scammer’ written all over them
6. If he had a company, why was there no record of his name at Companies House?
7. How did the words he wrote to me appear to have been written to someone else 6 years prior? I asked him… he said his email had been hacked. But that he had never written the words previously

My brother found a copy of the transfer receipt on my mother’s computer and has been brilliantly supportive to me. Yes, I feel a total idiot. How messed up could I be to need the emotional support of a scammer to make me feel happy?? The loss of him is real. I keep checking my phone to see if I can see him online. But he’s moved on. I need to rebuild but right now I’m hurting so much.
I can’t believe I was such an idiot to fall for his stories. But I needed someone and he was happy to be that person, but oh my god, he got well paid for it.

Please, if anyone is going through something similar and wants to discuss please get in touch. And if you want to private message me, I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.

Please see his emails below – which are rewrites of the words Richard Williams sent to Lilyc in 2014:

1st email

Hello xxx,
Thank you for the message and your email, there isn't enough to explain about me on Match but am going to tell you what i can about me, it'll be much preferable that you ask what exactly you want to know if i didn’t get to mention on here. My name Is MARK PINARELLO. Actually, born In Parma, Italy to a British mom and Italian Dad before my parents decided to move back to SOLIHULL that I'm staying currently. However, as a man growing up with Hindi neighbors I was exposed to films and documentaries of dramatic landscapes of India and the ornate architecture of its temples, mosques and synagogues with their theatrical rituals which had an effect on my development and Psyche so I chose to spend much time as possible in my bedroom conjuring up with pencils and paper Imaginary landscapes, architectural fantasies and futuristic cars,In short I only ever wanted to become an Artist that's why I went on to study Foundation of Arts and Design at the University before obtaining first class honor degree in Fine Art and studying sculpture as a postgraduate at the School for the Arts. After spending almost 25 years with Amanda who was into motorsport, I met so many interesting and intriguing people. Few I can say, I have kept in contact with today.
Growing up, I was a quiet kid with limited friends. Our parents were very private, for their own reason. This kept Dean and I isolated, but we had each other. My brother and I were always extremely close, and we dealt with family issues as a duo. In 1988, my world shattered. My brother had a diving accident and broke his neck and died. I learnt from then I needed to stand on my own two feet and take control of my life... And I did just that, and seized everything I learnt and put it into practice. He is my hero, and we are blood...I am proud of who I am and am comfortable in my own skin. I really enjoy making a positive difference in people's lives, even strangers... I have some amazing people of whom I am constantly listening to and learning from... I am a very very lucky man to have experienced what I have, and this is just the beginning!!!! I believe never scared to give a stranger a hug, give someone a compliment, smile, say thank-you, send a message of support and most of all... Don't be scare to love someone... Cause love makes the world go around, and it something about the warm and fuzzy feeling that is totally addictive !!! :) :) :)
I am relatively new to this whole concept of internet dating to be honest and i think its better, knowing that we can keep communication here over the email until it gets to meeting in person,I am a caring, honest and God fearing man,I love working for natural things a lot even though i deal with Arts and sculptures by profession. My late mom’s and her father before her, were organic farmers, as were all farmers at that time anyway so He never really embraced enthusiastically the new ways of farming that came to be after the World War to say the least but with focus Hard work and total dedication We are blessed to be have one of the Farm House Located on a 500-acre home to pigs, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys. The farm is popular with younger children.Small horticultural plot, selling plants and vegetables, and a conservation area,I loved growing up on this farm Working in the fields with my father and my two older cousins but I grew up knowing I didn't really want to become a farmer like my Dad because I found another love for drawing and paintings which took up most of my time as a boy growing up but I really enjoyed my time on a farm still do actually ** Smiles.
It was so much fun well, when you get to run around and play. And when you're up in the hay mow, sometimes, except for when you have to throw down the hay and do chores .. It was a place I learned that when something needs to be done you do it as best you can. You have to take responsibility but most crucially for me It was and still a place of exploration for me that gave me so much Inspiration to become an Artist, I had the opportunity to understand plants, human and animal relationships, developed a sense of responsibility and gain skills and experiences that put me In good stead for life challenges so I'm really so grateful being a " Farm " boy HaHa Brings back so many memories.
My sculptural work is often of human scale using recognisable imagery,The majority of my works have some relation to labor history, labor and the changing nature of work as we know it,They are also triggered by human relationships and predicaments and they find expression through the human figure. It's difficult to explain the creative path. I normally start with drawings and more drawings, where I compose shapes and forms and spaces between these: on paper and in my mind. I draw until I get under the skin of my subject - till I can "feel" that sculpture in me. After constructing the armature I concentrate on the shapes and forms in space - composition and silhouette - then suddenly the work takes on a life of its own - the emotional content starts to manifest itself - the dialogue begins, between myself and the sculpture. This dialogue is essential for me, it's a tremendous process of discovery. An adventure into my inner self. The sculpture acquires a spirit and a personality. While I work I'm constantly looking at the composition in space - the tensions within the individual forms and the relationships between them ... to me this is the essence of sculpture.
I'll like you to know that i prefer a honesty in my woman than any other thing, although i haven't had enough opportunities in keeping relationships, i'll say this is the second time i am ever going to think of having a woman, as i have been hurt in the past especially when i was growing up as a teenager, and i learn from people a lot so i don't make any more mistakes in my life, i'll really love to know more about you, what you do for work and fun and what exactly are you looking for in your kind of man, i hope to hear back from you soon.
Regards and Warmest Wishes,
Mark xxx

My Favorite Quotes Below ..
"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down..."
"You never know the value of a moment until it is a memory..."
"Life is too short, so forgive quickly, believe slowly, love truly, laugh loudly and never avoid anything that makes you smile..."
And lastly...
"If I was meant to be controlled, I would have came with a remote..

2nd email

Hello xxx,

I hope you smile all through as you read this lovely message of mine . Thank you for the message and I must say you sound like a great woman with great personality plus you seem to be such an intelligent woman.. Anyways, there isn't any direct flight to Cape Town and it is rather ridiculous spend that much since I will home in few days time. I'm a good man with great personality and I do care a lot about people and love to smile. I like the outdoors and the water. I love history and soccer, I do like to watch sports on TV at times and I support Manchester United lol. I love nature, animal, mountains and the very air that we breathe. I love movies and relaxing. I am looking for someone who is willing to spend "Quality time" with.

I was raised by two parents who liked the theatre, loved to camp and believed in values. I have seen almost every play and musical. But I still love comedies and romance, not that I can't do the chick flick. I do like books, but I often read at work, so getting home I would rather do other things like watch football. Odd or not, I like rock and Alternative, but I will listen to almost anything. Even like oldies and Sinatra. I am not a player and I do not go for head games. I consider myself loyal God fearing and honest to a fault. I love adventure and challenges, but I also like to be with one person. I am not the controlling type. Looking for respect and consideration in a relationship. I love athletic events, whether it is college or pro; watching or participating. I am looking to meet an attractive, intelligent, honest person who likes to have a good time and is fun to be around with.

Someone who is very goal-oriented in her personal life and career, likes a fun night out and quiet nights .one who is adventurous, sociable and cultured; someone who values family, social life, and helping others; someone who is active, is athletic and likes to do outdoor activities; someone who is patient, sensitive, empathetic and supportive, a very good communicator, and especially someone who makes me laugh. I also would like someone who is affectionate and cuddly. Sorry if i want too much lol... but its worth it tho. Right now i am working on getting arts and crafts for my sculpture although i have to abandon the farm for a while now that i have more workers, I do cruise on a bike whew sometimes tho!!! I love motorcycles, and I run sometimes when i have the time. I sculpt full time and do drive with a very good sense of humour which is a plus i believe.

Do you know your star sign ? I'm a Gemini ,Actually this is my first time of writing a woman on the internet and i hope i don't have to go too far before i meet my woman, Hoping that will be you, i hope to hear back from you soon. Good night and sweet dreams..

Mark xxxx

3rd email

Dearest xxx,

How are you sweetheart and hope you are no longer having misunderstanding with mum. I feel so happy just being with you this way and as I'm getting business done with your great help, I can't wait to be back. You're my baby, and will forever be my LOVE. You will always be mine and the only one for my life, always have faith in yourself and you will gain the greatest gift of all, the gift of hope and love you righteously deserve. Every time I think of you my heart misses a beat. You're my theme or a dream! Every moment we share together we grow closer. I'm simply hanging by a moment, waiting to see you so you can hold me so tight that all else fades, I thought you would fade away from my mind, but still, everyday I wake up dreaming and thinking how we will spend the day together. I will never forget you since you came into my life. I know you think of me the same way too.

I need you with all that I am, all that I was and all that I will ever be. Please know that my love and I am inseparable and I would want it no other way and if time could express my feeling for you then it's forever and someday i guess you will think this is strange because we just met online and haven't seen each other but I cant really explain where the feeling comes from and this made me believe that true feeling doesn't have expression. I can't wait to be with you, see your smile and dimples, look in your eyes, feel your sweet touch, hear your perfect voice and kiss your perfect lips. The way I feel about you some people call crazy, some call it insane, but I call it true love. I really want you.

Even though we're apart right now, I have faith that in due time this will all come to an end and we will be together FOREVER. I'm beginning to love you more than words could ever show and I know you have feelings for me too. Like the saying goes, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." Well, my heart has always and will continue to be quite fond of you. !!!...

Love always,
Mark xx

4th email

Dearest xxx,

How are you doing baby? Darling, my consignment has been seized by the customs because according to them i didn’t pay the TAX DUTY before attempting to move the cargo out of the country, which i thought i did, but was just told that the payments i made were just normal tax charges for the sculptures and that 10% of the total worth of the goods is what is actually required [apparently, when the total cost of goods are over a certain amount, you have to pay 10% of the worth to customs].

I have just filled the custom’s detainee forms and before my sculptures can be shipped i must pay 10% of total cost of my sculptures as Duty and Export Tax. I’m really worried as this is such an horrible news because i was told that if the necessary receipts or proof of payments are not provided within a certain period of time, i might loose my shipment (life savings).Was told I also cannot leave the country as i have to provide the Custom Tax and Duty clearance which i don't have in other to pass through customs clearance.

My love, i am really worried about this and can’t control my emotions since i got the news because i wasn't expecting to raise such amount at last minute point. I had message you earlier that i am being summoned by the custom in Cape Town due to the fact that I don't have the necessary documentations to get my shipment out of South Africa. I’m really helpless and frustrated and don’t know what to do but I tried something that could work and that also won't work from here so i was thinking maybe you could help do it from your end. Will send you the Custom duty document given to me and explain more on the phone.

Need you more than before
Want you more than before..
Miss and can’t wait to be with you.

Lots of Love.
Mark xxxxx

5th email

Dearest xxx,

How are you doing this morning my love? It's always a beautiful beginning of a new day whenever i get to wake up with your thoughts all over me.. I could kiss you a thousand times and still not be satisfied. My love for you is endless, so tender, so hot and complete. I swear to God that you are my life. I love you more and more with each day passing and it eases me to know as tomorrow approaches, that I will love you more then yesterday and tomorrow will be more than today. My love for you cannot be measured by words alone as love does express my true feelings for you.

When I think of our love it reminds me of all the things you are to me. You and only you have given me so much hope and have made me realize how much I want you! You show the true meaning of how a man should treat a woman. Sweetheart, please accept my heart as your own and listen to both of ours beating as one. You are my reason to live. Without you I'm nothing. The years will be a test, but nothing will keep me from loving you, or from being by your side. I love you more than you could even know, you are my world. I just wanted to let you know how much I love all that you are and will be. You're truly my love, my soul mate, and my best friend.

For the first time in my life I have something to believe in. You've seen me at my worst and still take me as I am. I thank God for you every day because I know you're an heaven sent, you are my Angel. I love you from now till death do us part. Right now you are miles away from me and it's killing me but I know in my heart that we are doing alright. I want you to know I love you from the deepest part of my heart. I'm always so lost for words when it comes to you, I just wish there was another way that we could be together today which is new year eve and also the beginning of a new decade.

I want you now and always will, there is nothing that will ever change the way I feel about you ... I love you! Love can make you do things that you never thought possible. See, there's a place in me where your fingerprints still rest, your kisses will linger and your whispers softly echo. It's the place where a part of you will forever be a part me. I promise, you'll always be in my heart. I love you.

Love always,

6th email

My Dearest xxx,

How are you my QUEEN. I want you to know you are MY HEART and in my heart forever and everywhere I go .. When I read and chat with you on the phone, I feel alive. You bring to me a happiness that no one else ever could. You bring to me a love I have never known before. I could not imagine what my life would be like without you. You have touched my heart in ways no one could ever comprehend. I love talking with you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

Every day I wake up thanking God for you. You have given me so much, and I don't know if I will be able to give back all that you have given me. You have been my guiding light when I was lost. You have been my comforter through all my trials and sorrow. You have been my rock.Sometimes I feel lost and out of touch, but when you’re there, I feel safe.Your words and everything about you soothes me. I could sit here and try to tell you just how I feel, but I can't find the words other than I am ecstatic we met and have gotten together after all we've gone through. Just sometimes, I feel like you are not doing much to bring home to you so that we can be together FOREVER.

I want to tell you that the love I have for you is undying. It is a love that is strong and enduring and will stand the test of time. I truly feel blessed that you have become a part of my life, and I cannot wait for the day that we can join our lives together. I want to lie next to you at night and fall asleep in your arms. I want to wake to your beautiful smile. I want to share in your joys and sorrows. I want to be your everything, because you are everything to me. So take the RISK on me.

That's why I want to build a bright future together with you as you are my Angel.

I promise to always love you and always hold you in my heart. I will always be here for you when you need me, and I will love you no matter what life brings us. You are my soul mate SANDRA, and I vow to love you all eternity. I love you.

Miss you loads and want you so bad.
Love you so very much Mark xxxxxx

PS: What's really going on concerning you personally. I don't want you to say that its impossible or giving me excuses from the bank because you and I know that there is little the bank can do when it comes to your personal funds. They can't protect you from yourself. So darling if you want us to continue this wonderful journey still , I need you to get back to me and tell me how we go from here and I can also give you suggestions from my end as we are both wanting the same thing darling love. Think this through properly and I need you to understand one thing , I don't want to waste your time so I would appreciate the same courtesy. If i really mean something to you then you must and should come up with a suggestion and nothing else if we really have to be together..

#404766 by AlanJones Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:52 pm
Thank you for taking the time to post your story summer 2 and I'm sorry that you were scammed.

The best thing for you to do now is totally block him. Don't keep messaging him, he will just see it is a chance to try and continue the scam. You should also be wary of anyone who contacts you saying that they can get your money back - they can't and will be trying to scam you again.

Please can you also post the email address that he is using. His other victims may be searching for it.

Please do not tell scammers that they are listed here - it will take them seconds to change their fake details and their new details will not be listed for any future victims to find.

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