Man Accused of Impersonating Model, Swindling Wealthy Men Online

While traveling between Los Angeles and Texas, "Bree" said she lost her luggage, including her wallet, and was "desperate for money," Carbona said.

But Carbona, whose father and grandfather were police officers, said it was a tough tale to swallow.

"I said, 'let me get back to you,' and I did some checking around," he said.

Ultimately, he tracked down the real Bree Condon in Wales, and she informed him that an impersonator had been causing problems for years and referred Carbona to her private investigator, Perkins.

Carbona said he told Perkins that he "was raised in a family of very skeptical, investigative minds and I'd like to plan a sting."

Technology Helped Catch Alleged Fraudster

Using the GPS-enabled social network Who's Here, Carbona said he figured out that "Fake Bree" was in Austin. "From that point on it became just a cat and mouse game," he said.

After a few months of phone calls, Carbona said he was able to convince "Bree" to let him pay her motel bill. When the credit card authorization form arrived by fax, Carbona told Condon's private investigator about Brown's location. Perkins then notified Austin authorities, who apprehended Brown in his hotel room.

"The technology was really the key to it, to determine his distance from me," Carbona said. "And enough experience with hotels to know that you can pay remotely."

Online Scams Happen More Frequently Than One Might Think

Carbona said he couldn't believe that "Bree" was really a man. Even after he knew the suspect, Brown, was trying to con him, he said he couldn't detect it in his voice.

"I listened so intensely to try and pick up any sort of slip. He stayed in character perfectly. He was really talented in what he did," Carbona said. "He just played the woman perfectly."

And though some may wonder how wealthy, accomplished men fell for Brown's alleged trick, Carbona said he was "very convincing at being this damsel in distress."

"It's pretty sad for a lot of people who thought they were helping someone who was in need," he said. "We're living in a time where the economy has turned a lot of normal livelihoods into abnormal livelihoods."

Some Daters Let Guard Down Online

Those familiar with online social networks say scams like Brown's happen more frequently than you might think.

Stephan Smith, a spokesman for, said that members call with reports of blackmail and extortion reports "all too often." While large-scale scams involving thousands of dollars are rare, the site removes fraudulent profiles on a daily basis, according to Smith.

"Where you bring together wealthy individuals and those who seek their companionship, you have a lot of potential for fraud," he said.

Members are flagged if they spam others with messages or if the gender indicated in their billing information doesn't match the gender provided in their profile.

He said the site actively cautions members against sending money before they meet someone in person. "That's a warning that every member sees every time they log in," Smith said.

But despite the warnings, some members still find themselves at the mercy of con artists.

"A lot of this dating is based in fantasy," he said. "Unfortunately, that excitement can kind of prevent the normal precautions one might take in real-life settings."

One member of, who asked that his name be withheld, said he was in contact with the fake "Bree" in October 2008.

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