New Jersey duo arrested after $100,000 romance scam leaves 74-year-old dead

"The victim was just scared and just felt like they needed to pay the money," investigators said.

WABC logo
Saturday, December 2, 2023
$100,000 romance scam leaves 74-year-old dead: police
Darla Miles has the latest on a romance scam.

PISCATAWAY, New Jersey -- A New Jersey couple was arrested this month after targeting a 74-year-old Tennessee victim in a $100,000 email scam, according to authorities.

According to a criminal complaint, between August 13 and October 23, Chinagorom Onwumere, 34, and Salma Abdalkareem, 27, "devised to obtain money or property under false and fraudulent pretenses."

Three weeks ago, Onwumere and Abdalkareem were arrested at their Piscataway, New Jersey home, where investigators say they found an envelope the victim sent to the address.

Investigators in Tennessee say that part of the scam featured Abdalkareem pretending to be a well-known female actress and wanting to be in a relationship with the victim, even going as far as getting him to send pictures back and forth.

They say that's when Onwumere emailed the victim and "purported to be from the United States FBI" before "telling the victim that he had entered into a sexual harassment lawsuit due to the conversations."

The complaint also noted that the FBI impersonator told the victim he would have to, "pay fines so the matter could be resolved out of court."

Police say the pair got the victim to send checks of $4,500 and $5,500 and then upped the ante, getting him to send two more checks for $41,000.

It is believed that the victim sent over $100,000 to Onwumere and Abdalkareem.

"The victim was just scared and just felt like they needed to pay the money," said Washington County Lt. Vince Walters.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office got involved after the 74-year-old was found dead in his home with a gunshot wound to his head and contacted by the family who discovered the emails.

Investigators believe the extortion of the victim led to his suicide.

Tennessee police located the pair in New Jersey and worked with the Piscataway Township Police Department to execute a search warrant on their home, leading to their arrest.

"The family was excited about us actually being able to pinpoint someone or some folks and make an arrest," said Lt. Walters.

The Piscataway residents have been charged with extortion, financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable person, theft over $60,000, and criminal impersonation.

Additional charges are pending, as the investigation remains ongoing.