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His name was Duke Gregor.“How beautiful is your picture Audrey,” the message read.“My name is Duke, I am from Aberdeen do you know where? I have a son named Kevin and by the Grace of God I will meet that someone again.”The typical Facebook user would likely recognize such a note as bait, but Elrod was in a place in her life that made her vulnerable to such flattery.

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No matter how tired she got from helping Sinclair obtain his money, the prospect of hearing her fiancé’s adoring voice always managed to lift her heart.

Elrod’s love affair began with the sort of dodgy Facebook message that most people delete on sight.

She was in the midst of divorcing her husband of 14 years; his legal woes (including arrests for benefits fraud and making a false bomb report) had strained their marriage.

Anxious about her future as an older single woman, Elrod lapped up the kind words about her looks—too few men seemed to appreciate her soft chin, wavy hair, and prominent brown eyes.

Elrod would spend the next few hours visiting other Bluefield establishments that offer Money Gram or Western Union services: the Advance America payday loan store, the Food City supermarket, the austere cash-for-titles joint located literally under Route 460.

At each stop she’d wire another chunk of money to Sinclair.She’d been out of work for a year, ever since quitting her longtime clerical job at the county public health department in Charlotte, North Carolina.The 45-year-old divorcée and junior-college dropout now lived in Bluefield, West Virginia, a fading town near the Appalachian coalfields where she’d been raised.In addition to collecting 4 in unemployment benefits each week, Elrod made ends meet by hustling: She resold packages of discount toilet paper and peddled small quantities of prescription drugs.She scraped together just enough to rent a 676-square-foot garage apartment that she shared with a roommate, a gangly buffet cook a dozen years her junior.She wrote back, thanking the sender for complimenting her beauty and asking how he’d found her.

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