internet scam
A South Korean surfs an Internet site at an Internet cafe in Seoul Reuters/You Sung-ho

An American woman who fell victim to an online dating scam has been arrested for felony conspiracy to commit murder against her 88-year-old mother. Roxanne Reed, 55, was charged last week after allegedly plotting to kill her mother to pay the scammer.

According to Garner Police Capt Joe Binns, the North Carolina woman planned the death of Emma Maurine Hammontree, with whom she lived in a small house. The plot was uncovered after Reed’s family reported to the police that she was losing money to someone online.

The police believe that Reed got caught up in a romance scam. Her family shared with police the text messages exchanged between her and a man using the name Scott Humpal. The messages apparently revealed Reed was plotting to kill her mother so that she could get more money to pay the man she believed was also romantically interested in her.

“There was enough information in the text messages about how to do it, when to do it, those kinds of questions were answered explicitly,” Binns said, adding that they took immediate action to ensure Hammontree’s safety.

Police are still looking for the real identity of Reed’s online co-conspirator as Humpal is actually the name of a physical therapist in Texas who has no involvement with the case. His name and likeness are frequently used by online scammers.

“This is a poor guy who lives in Texas somewhere that has nothing to do with anything, and apparently he’s been victimised multiple times — somebody using his name, his picture or his information,” Binns explained.

According to websites such as DatingScams101 and WatchForScams, the name Scott Humpal is frequently used by online scammers when befriending women through social media and the duping them into sending money.

Binns said Reed’s case indicates she’s both a victim and a suspect. “She was a victim of a romance scam where she sent money,” he said. “Never sent money to someone you don’t know. Never take out loans to send money to somebody you don’t know. Those types of things. Know who you’re talking with on the Internet. The Internet is a crazy place and you want to make sure you know who you’re talking with.”

Reed may face additional charges as it appears she took out a loan to send money to the scammer. This might indicate that she had committed fraud herself. Court records show Reed filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and was in process of paying off her debts through a plan approved by a judge.