A London court heard a case earlier this month in which one of Australia’s richest people tried to recover $1 million scammed from him in a convoluted ruse that combined traditional phishing with the “Catfish” online phenomenon preying on lonely people looking for love.
Christine Campbell, the assistant of 87-year-old John Kahlbetzer, founder of Sydney-based Twynam Agricultural Group, was tricked into transferring her boss’ money into the bank account held by a British man, David Aldridge. In her job, it was not unusual for Campbell to make such transfers for Kahlbetzer, who’s on Forbes’ list of the 50 Richest Australians.
The only problem was that Aldridge’s emailed request, which falls into the CEO scam known as “whaling,” was fraudulent. Aldridge claimed in court he was scammed himself by a woman, Nancy Jones, he had identified as his “girlfriend” of four years yet he apparently never met her in person.
According to a Bloomberg article, Aldridge claimed Jones instructed him to transfer Kahlbetzer’s $1 million into bank accounts in the U.S., Hong Kong, U.K., the United Arab Emirates, Ghana and Nigeria, so she could pay death duties on her parents’ estate and they could “properly be together.”
It wasn’t clear if Jones ever materialized for the court case, but Aldridge’s defense team claimed he was as much a victim and that he should only be responsible for repaying £61,538 that he put into his own account.