A grandmother from Fort Worth, Texas made the same mistake as many women who message me about "military" men they've met online -- she believed him and did his bidding. Only unlike those women, Cris Maxson's "romance" didn't con her out of her own money. Instead, it landed her in jail.
Last November Maxson received in the mail at her home in Texas a California warrant for her arrest, according to this story. Her family was baffled by it. How in the world did a church-going Texas grandma deserve an arrest warrant from California? So they took it to the Fort Worth police, who couldn't even tell them if it was real. They got her finger printed. They tried to make it go away and show she was innocent and that California had the wrong person.
And then, in December, she was arrested by the Fort Worth police and extradited to California.
Her crime? Cashing $900 in fraudulent money orders, this news story says.
And why would she does such a thing? Because a "Marine" she had been talking to on Facebook had asked her to, according to this story.
She had fallen in love with him, she said.
"He even asked me to marry him, and I agreed," she told Texas news channel WFAA.
The bank filed grand theft challenges. And that's how she ended up in jail, held on a $150,000 bond.
Maxson's "Marine" said he was in Nigeria. When the news station googled his "name," they found other people warning that he was a scam. All Maxson would've had to do was do a simple search for this "person" and she would've saved herself a lot of trouble -- and jail time.
Maxson was released from the California jail this month and returned home early this week after a lawyer helped her get the charges dropped, KHOU reported. She was jailed for about three months total.
And of course there is another victim here as well -- the Marine whose photos were stolen and used in this scam. Like my soldier, who was the star of a Tinder scam last year, that Marine probably has no idea his photos are being used to convince women to commit crimes -- and landing at least one in jail.
Maxson's legal problems are over now -- and she probably won't ever fall in love with a man on the internet again. But if you are a woman who is wondering if you're a victim of a military romance scam, always follow this rule: if it smells like a scam, it is one. If a military member "overseas" EVER asks you for money of any kind or through any means, you are a part of a scam. That's all there is to it.
And for the military families who are worried that their photos are a part of a scam? Well, there's not much you can do except practice good PERSEC and make photos of your loved one in uniform as non-public as possible.
Here's hoping this is the last time a romance scam lands someone in jail.