A veterinarian in Mount Washington, Ky., is being charged with theft and exploitation after falling for an Internet scam through an undisclosed dating website.
Pamela Johnsen, DVM, of Johnsen Veterinary Services, was arrested Oct. 22 after taking $170,000 from her mother to give to a “man” she met on an online dating service—a man who turned out to be a group of scammers.
Lieutenant Mike Murdoch of the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office says Johnsen took the funds during a three-week period and gave the money to the man she met online with the promise that he would send more money back to her.
“I started giving him my money at first but then he said he needed more or he’d be thrown in jail for treason, so I borrowed it from my mother’s account,” Johnsen told DVM Newsmagazine. “I was trying to save him. I never intended to exploit or steal from my mom.”
The clinic’s office manager, Debbie Johnson, says Johnsen had fallen in love. “She felt like she had met and fallen in love with someone real,” Johnson says. “She was the victim of an emotional and financial scam. She had no malicious intentions against her mother.”
Johnsen told police that the man had reported to be working on a project with Homeland Security. He needed the money to get approved, then he would make $50 million and move to Kentucky, where they would return the money to Johnsen’s mother’s account and enjoy a financially secure life together.
They had been e-mailing and talking on the phone for four months, Johnsen says, and she’d never heard of a romance scam like this before. She says she hopes more people will be aware of the scam so they don’t fall for it like she did.
“I am guilty – guilty of being stupid,” Johnsen says.
Johnsen says her attorneys have advised her not to talk to detectives about the case, but she has recorded phone conversations of the man promising her that he would pay back the borrowed money.
“Every time we talked, he swore to God and on his child’s life that he would pay back every dime that he borrowed,” Johnsen says. “I’m so soft-hearted that I believed him.”
Johnsen was released on a $50,000 property bond Oct. 29.