Through my company, I help people in need through one of two ways—either through outright gifts given on a “Pay it forward basis” or with interest-free loans. Since 2007, we have bestowed €52.648 in outright gifts to people in need by helping pay partial bills for housing, college educations, law school tuition, and cars; setting up trust funds for children of single parents; and other expenditures from verified sources. When gifts are not practical, we also make loans to deserving individuals; in that same period of time, we have made €44.762 in loans. This complaint involves a scheme where we were defrauded of €9.000 (639.000 rubles) in loans by two scammers: a woman using the name Mariia Alekseevna Semenova (email: email@example.com; Skype: maria.semmm) and a man pretending to be a private lawyer named Mikhail Kolomeytsev (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
I first met Semenova on a networking site on March 14, 2016. Over time, we corresponded; her emails were lengthy, full of personal details about her life and family, and answered all questions asked, which is not typical of a scammer. The photos she sent were all checked online through Google image search and found to be consistent, matching a Skype interview on June 11, 2016, and thus not stolen or faked by other scammers.
The information she gave was sufficiently detailed to gain trust. She claimed to have been born on April 11, 1990, lived alone since the age of 18, but now was “25 years old and . . . single. I live alone. After high school I went to Saratov to study at University. I was born in the city of Syktyvkar, is in the North of our country. In this city there were my mother and older brother. My mother 46 years old, she works in a toy store. I love her very much! My father left my mother when I was very little, so I don’t even remember. From that moment we never saw. Mom [does not] love to talk about it, so I know almost nothing. I work the teacher of initial classes at school. I love children, that I got from my mom. . . . I love my job, but unfortunately in our country don’t appreciate the work of teachers.” I am attaching a photo of Semenova in her classroom (Charter School, 3rd grade students, 8-9 years of age) dated March 22, 2016; one with an alleged fellow teacher named Anya sent on March 17; and a third of her with her mother sent on September 24 (Exhibits 1-3).
Later, she claimed the high school in which she worked “is considered one of the best in our city. We used almost all of the modern equipment. We have projectors, interactive whiteboards, computers,” all shown in the photo she sent. Semenova also said she walked home from school each day and the “road home takes about 30 minutes.”
As part of the process for getting help, we required the beneficiary to have a valid bank account, phone number, and official address. Semenova sent us her bank details (Exhibits 4a-4b), claimed not to have a working phone as it was damaged in a school accident on March 21, but invited us to use the phone of a friend of hers named ‘Rita’ (Exhibit 5).
On March 31, Semenova slipped up and signed an email with the name “Rita” and not “Masha” as she had used before. This raised my suspicion, and we stopped writing for a few days when I told her “There are scammers in every country, and I do not want to be scammed here either by someone pretending to be someone else.”. On April 4, Semenova sent 2 photos of her with my name written on a piece of paper, no doubt to prove that she was ‘real.’ Those photos matched others she had sent.
To verify her address, I sent a parcel in her full name to her official address (Zheleznodorozhnaya st. 96 apt. 18, 410012 Saratov, Russia) for confirmed receipt on April 11 (Exhibit 6). As the only number given was that of Rita, the parcel was accepted by ‘Rita’ and brought to Semenova’s school. Thus, the delivery did get to Semenova in her name and at the address specified, so someone is in that building who is either living with Semenova, or acting as her accomplice
First Loan to Semenova
Semenova’s mother allegedly bought a plot of empty ground near her home in Syktyvkar, took a mortgage out under the daughter’s name (because Semenova had a regular salaried job), and then started missing a few payments. On May 12, 2016, Semenova wrote that a bailiff had served her with papers for a debt of about 127.000 rubles, due for payment in 10 days. Semenova stated, “Tonight . . . came the employees of the bailiff service. I was very scared! . . . They showed me a court order which says that I must pay the full amount of the debt.. . . I was told that if I don’t pay [in 10 days] they will describe my property debt and I will issue a fine. This is a huge problem.” Semenova said she “immediately talked to my mom. . . .
She said she already put up for sale a plot of land… But she says that nobody wants to buy it because it is a loan and, by law, can be arrested of the Bank.” Semenova also wrote that “mom said that now she thinks that in order to sell their store because now they’re doing badly and the profits he’s almost never brings, barely enough for food… I was very scared for the future of my mom.”
That same day, I replied that parts of her story did not make sense. “If your name is on the loan as the responsible party, then you would have had to been served with papers to show up in court first before a bailiff could come after you; without such legal notice, a court order is invalid . . . and since you don’t say that you were ever served beforehand, then no one should be troubling you at all.”
In response on May 12, Semenova wrote that “Mom used to have business at the store were good enough and she paid each installment. But then things began to deteriorate dramatically and things went awry. She thought to cope with all the problems and the situation will improve. But apparently nothing happened. As I said, the police officers, they repeatedly sent me letters, but since I live in a rented apartment these letters to me did not reach. So this whole situation got this sequel.” A lawyer she claimed to have talked to said, “that in order to avoid any problem there is only one option – to pay the debt, because the Bank’s rights in any way.” The amount of the alleged debt was stated by her as “127.000 rubles.”
On May 13, I stated that it was “not enough to send letters,. . . you would have to be served in person and then not show up in court to get an order issued against you.” Next, I asked for a copy of the judicial letter proving the debt. Finally, I asked how much money her family could raise to pay the debt.
On May 16, Semenova did not answer all my questions, but claimed her family could raise 43.000 rubles and promised to send the judicial letter: “Yeah I’ll scan you the letter that I was handed when I’m at work tomorrow.” In fact I did not receive the alleged letter until June 2, probably because she needed a few weeks to forge it. What she sent is attached, but is illegible to me (Exhibit 7).
On May 17, I suggested refinancing the loan on the land, but was concerned if paying off this alleged debt would save the land or not. The next day, Semenova responded that she was “confused in this whole situation and about what I do now and where to get the money. Land now not under arrest. It can be seized and sold by the Bank at a low price if we do not repay the debt. Now we need to pay the amount owed. So I understand the whole situation. If we do not, then the court will pass the decision on arrest of the plot.”
On May 19, I wrote that “If the land is sold, the bank will take the first offer it will get and still hold you accountable for the debt, which is why I suggested refinancing the loan so that both sides get something.”
I also asked if her mother lived on the land or if the plot was vacant. That same day, Semenova replied that refinancing was not possible, as “The Bank’s decision on this issue depends on many factors, and one of the key ones are the credit history of the person (that is, it should not be a debts on loans), also of considerable age, place of work, wages. And the Bank employees gave me to understand, the Bank won’t accept it in my case. So I don’t know what to do. Just in case of nonpayment of debt, the Bank will usurp our land to repay debt, and it is much more expensive than the amount of debt. And get that we lost a huge amount of money. But the Bank’s not interested, unfortunately. They’re just making it much cheaper than it really is.” She also confirmed that the land was empty and that the land was worth more than the debt: “Fortunately for the plot we have no home, it’s just land. If we were able now to pay the full amount of the debt, the land would remain in our property and we could sell it much more expensive.”
On May 20, I pointed out that “even paying the debt will not help if your mother cannot keep up the payments on the mortgage, in which case you will be in the same situation again in a few months.” But if the land could be sold to pay off the debt, then that would be better. That same day, Semenova assured me that the land could be sold immediately after the debt was paid, which turned out to be a lie: “But if we could pay this debt and leave the land in our ownership, we would have had the chance to sell within a month of his own, at the market price and then we would be able to pay off the debt completely.” Semenova claimed to be “really embarrassed now to ask your help,” Later, I asked her to “Either have the bank contact me to wire what is owed, or give me the email of the bank employee who is ‘handling’ this debt?” with the understanding that her mother could sell the land “once the debt is paid.” I did not want any money to go to Semenova, but to a verified debtor.
On May 22, I made it clear that we were talking about a LOAN tied to the quick sale of the land: “So long as[your mother] can keep up payments to sell the land and pay me back, then I am willing to help. Please also discuss with your bank that you will have a payment come from abroad. . . . The bank also will have to issue you a signed release from the debt once it is paid so you can show the bailiffs.” That same day, Semenova said that the next day she would discuss all this with the bank and with her mother. I replied that, if the loan was repaid promptly, that I would “pay this debt by wire transfer AND also the next TWO monthly mortgage payments on the land in advance in order to give your mother some rest from money worries and to show the bank we negotiate in good faith. . . . I want a release of the debt in writing. With the next two mortgage payments paid, it will give your family time to sell the land.” This was a generous offer that was abused by Semenova in perpetuating her fraud.
On May 23, Semenova claimed to have gone to the bank that held the debt [Home Credit Bank, which she claimed on June 15 was located at Prospekt Entuziastov 31 in Saratov] to discuss the payment from abroad, but they rejected the offer: “What the Bank employee told me that it’s impossible . . . [that] the money will come not from Russia but from other countries. They can’t take that risk, because they have no confidence that this is not any fraud. . . . But he said that they are not interested, and that if I wanted to pay the debt, I have to do it according to the usual rules.”
That same day I advised her to hire a lawyer to contact Home Credit directly, “informing the bank that you offered to settle the debt by wire transfer and the bank refused without cause. Then I would ask the lawyer to file a petition with the court stating the same thing (and attaching a copy of the letter or fax as proof)–stating that you made a generous offer for payment that was refused and that you ask the court to block any action on the debt until the court approves the alternate method of payment.” I made this suggestion as a matter of timing, as if the 10-day limit imposed by the bailiff was real, then it would be too late to wire money anyway, as the deadline would have expired and the bank would have the money and still seize the land by the time the loan arrived.
On May 23, Semenova wrote that this situation was exhausting her and that she was taking sedatives at night to sleep. She claimed that “In the Bank I spoke with one of the managers. Several employees of the Bank at this point were sitting in our office. The amount of debt is 126.743 rubles. Monthly payment is 38.940 rubles. Paying in cash is possible, but against the Bank that the payment was made from another country and not me. They’re worried that it might be fraudulent activity.” She also said that she had talked with her mother: “I forgot to tell you about our conversation with mom….. she said if you really could help, she said she will return you the money after the sale of the plot of the entire amount with some percent” As the land debt was 126.743 rubles, and each monthly payment was 38.940 rubles, the total loan would be 204.623 rubles.
On May 24, I borrowed money from my business account and wired Semenova €2750 (about 207.000 rubles) to the account given to pay off the ‘debt,’ the next 2 months of mortgage, and any penalties (Exhibit 8). The transaction is clearly marked as a LOAN and was offered in consideration for being repaid, with interest, based on the sale of the land within one month of the debt being paid. I sent
Semenova a copy of the wire and stated clearly that “I will need proof that the debt has been paid.” I also advised that she “should still ask a lawyer to help you here. The money will not arrive until after the bank’s due date.” The money arrived on May 26.
That same day, Semenova wrote back to say she was “eternally grateful” for the loan, claimed she would go to a lawyer, “he together with me went to the Bank and we would be able to agree on everything. . . . I will take into account that you will need to obtain from the Bank written confirmation that they are ready to wait another two days. That’s why I want to take with a lawyer.” She assured me again that “As soon as we can sell our plot, I will immediately refund you all the money!”
On May 25, Semenova wrote that she had that morning “called several lawyers and was able to find one who agreed to help me in my problem. But he said that he would be able to appoint me to a meeting at 2pm. . . . As the deadline payments. I asked if he could come with me to the Bank and try to settle the whole situation. I told him that I’m ready to pay.” She then claimed she had gone to Home Credit Bank with her ‘lawyer’ and that he “was able to negotiate with them about the fact that the Bank gave me an extension to 5 working days. . . . They made a written agreement signed by me and the Bank employee, and this agreement was witnessed by my lawyer.” The alleged agreement is attached—not on bank stationary and not notarized, so fraudulent as well (Exhibit 9). Semenova claimed she signed a contract with this lawyer (Mikhail Kolomeytsev), paid him 5000 rubles and agreed to pay him another 5000 rubles when the debt was taken “out of court.”
On May 26, Semenova confirmed the loan had arrived that evening, that she would call the lawyer in the morning “to control the entire process, because . . . he will be able to make sure that everything went well and mom’s plot is not in danger.” She thanked me once more, and claimed again to be “eternally grateful” for my help.
On May 28, Semenova wrote that she had spoken with Kolomeytsev the day before (Friday May 27) but that “unfortunately he was very busy and said that he will go with me on Monday. So I decided to transfer payment on Monday, since the time I have.” On Monday, May 30, Semenova stated that she would be at work until 15:00 and then “I have to go to the Bank and take the money which I returned to the Bank” to make payment on Tuesday.
Semenova Fakes a Robbery
On May 31, Semenova allegedly withdrew the money in cash and walked to meet the lawyer so they could go together to Home Credit Bank and make payment. On the way to the bank, Semenova claimed to have been robbed in a courtyard by 2 guys and her purse with all money stolen. The thieves were allegedly caught on camera, but the “police investigator also said that it was not the only case in recent months. It turns out these freaks are already looking for and they have several statements from people who also received money in banks and immediately thereafter robbed them!! But they said that while they could not find because no one could remember their faces. they mainly attacked women. I said that I was able to remember the face of one who was holding me. We made a sketch and they said that now they are actively engaged in their postami and I hope that soon they will be able to find them. . . . But even if . . . can’t find them, I promise you that I will give you all the money to the last penny. . . . I still give you back all the money that has been received from you.”
That same day I wrote back in incredulity, asking how she could call the police if she did not have a phone, why her lawyer did not meet her at the bank, why she did not ask for a cashier’s cheque instead of withdrawing money in cash, or wire the money to Home Credit directly to pay the debt? I reminded her that “I could have wired the money to the bank directly and none of this would have happened, which is what I asked at the start.” I then asked her to “Send me a copy of the police report for my records.” I also asked again for the court order that she had promised to send me on May 17, as well as contact information for her ‘lawyer’ and the bank where her debt was being held.
On May 31, Semenova claimed that “In the last two days I suffered great nervous breakdowns, hysteria, depression.” She said she had asked a passerby to call the police, was upset that I did not believe her, that she “always was sincere with you, I shared everything with you, trusted you,” and denied knowing about being able to get cheques or wire money: “I have never encountered such situations and I had no idea that I can pay some check or transfer money from my account… How could I know that if I never had my account??” Semenova also said that the police sent her to a hospital to “fix the injury . . . from criminals”
(which she denied knowing about on June 11) and that the police had “looked at a cameras which are on the path that I walked from the Bank and to the place where it all happened and how I realized that on a few cameras they could find two guys that look like my description. Now they are trying to establish their identity. I again spent several hours in police.” Once again she reiterated that “I really hope that police catch criminals and I will return the money. But even if it doesn’t happen, my mom will sell the land, and I will return [money] to you.. I will not allow conscience not to do it. I was very disappointed that you’re not worried about my health and condition, you immediately started talking about that I sent you some pieces of paper. I now have very little time, but if you need it tomorrow I’ll find time to run, take these papers, copy them, scan, send you. Some of them are from a lawyer, some in the police station.” In fact, all the papers asked for never arrived,
On June 1, I stated that “I need all those documents for my records, as I have asked before. I am responsible for the money loaned to you too, you know.” That same day, Semenova claimed not to understand why I “want to get all these documents,” She professed to “understand it’s your money, but I said that I will return them to you.” In response, I wrote that “Once I get all the documents and review them, then we can discuss next steps.”
When the documents did not arrive by June 2, I reminded Semenova that “I did not get any of the documents or information you promised to send yesterday.” In reply, Semenova claimed the police “were able to establish the identity of the attackers, showed me their pictures. One of them was very similar to that which tried to keep me and the other sorry I didn’t see. Now they are looking for them.” She also claimed not to have enough time to do everything, but that “I promised to send you a copy of the judicial letter and also a receipt which was written in the Bank. I was able to scan it only today. You even asked for a police report, but I don’t have it. All of this is the police investigator who is involved in my case. The Bank where I took out a loan called Home Credit Bank. My attorney’s name is Mikhail Kolomeytsev. This is his mail: email@example.com.”. In a second letter that same day, Semenova was bothered by my lack of trust: “Are you afraid that I won’t return you your money? I will do and for me it is then a matter of honor.”
Correspondence with Lawyer Kolomeytsev
On June 2, I also began corresponding with her alleged ‘lawyer,’ which lasted until June 18, when he disappeared.
Kolomeytsev claimed he did not have documents from Semenova, that he “learned them when she first came to me for help. If she will not mind, I will send you to court materials,” which never were sent. Kolomeytsev asserted that Semenova would not have a police report, and that the “only thing that she should have been given to the police is the ticket alert for admission application” and that robbery “cannot be a reason for non-payment” of a debt.
I asked him for a copy of his website, and he responded that he was “a private lawyer, I do not have your own site.” I asked him for his address and phone number and he replied “My office is located at Moscow 149a. My phone number is 79371129487.”
On June 17, I wrote that “I have not seen any documents that show the loan, title to the land in question, or any court proceedings against her, so if you have something concrete, please send them to me, as there must be a file on her at the bank or in court.” He admonished me that I asked “a lot of questions”, told me first on June 3 that “all the documents I have are in office,” but then changed his story on June 16, stating
“I have studied these documents as soon as she asked me to get into the swing of things. Now I do not have these documents on hand.” On June 17, Kolomeytsev claimed “I do not understand you, you always ask for something, but I do not understand how it can help our cause. . . . on Monday the deadline already cash payments in the future have to start legal proceedings. So the fact that you will read all of this is unlikely to help in this situation. . . . If you are interested in all the papers, just tell me exactly what you need.”
On June 18, I replied that “It helps my cause, as I borrowed the money from my company’s partnership account to wire the full amount of the debt to Masha on May 25, which was more than enough for her to settle with the bank on May 31 before she allegedly was robbed. With the debt paid, she was then to sell the land and pay me back for this loan. None of that happened, and now I am liable to my company for the money ‘lost’.” The specific documents were asked for “as far back as May 16 and of you on June 13 (see that email for what I asked for), and so far I have nothing from either of you.” In reply on June 18, Kolomeytsev wrote that “if you need any documents you should just tell me.” That same evening I wrote back that “My company needs a copy of the original loan agreement Masha signed for the land; title to the land in question; copies of all legal orders entered against her; and a copy of the police report for the robbery.”
No documents ever were sent, and Kolomeytsev disappeared as of June 18. He has been contacted about 50 more times with no answer. I traced the IP addresses of all his emails, and they do not show him in Saratov, but in the middle of the Moskva River in Moscow. All emails with him are attached (Exhibit 10a) and a trace of his IP address (Exhibit 10b).
Second Loan to Semenova
As the judicial letter Semenova sent was unreadable (Exhibit 7), I wrote her on June 3 that I could not
“read the documents you sent me–the scan is fuzzy and the words are unclear. Can you make a better copy please?” I also pointed out that “All police give victims a report number and a copy of the report when robbed. You can ask the police for a copy the next time you go there and say you need it for your records. Your bank likely will need to see proof you were robbed and also get a statement from your attorney that you were going to meet him with the payment in full when all this happened. Do you have a receipt showing the money was withdrawn on the day of the robbery? I will need that too.”
On June 3, Semenova replied that “Unfortunately there is no other scanner. What are some words you can’t read, I can email them to you.” She then went on to write that “I have not received absolutely nothing in police, except the papers were confirming that they received my application. All other case materials are kept in them, they do not give them to me. They say that they are not entitled to distribute these documents. There’s nothing I can do about it. When I received the money I had a cheque, but now I won’t be able to find it… Most likely he was also in the bag…”
On June 4, I insisted that “I do need readable documents here” and suggested she go to an internet café. I asked for her lawyer’s “address and phone number,” as well as for “a copy of the papers then for the police application? They must have assigned a number to your case. What police station did you go to in order to make your report?” Finally, I asked for a receipt for the withdrawal, as you “should be able to get a duplicate of the receipt from your bank.” That same day, Semenova claimed she was not feeling well, but that “I understand all that you need, and will do it tomorrow.” In fact, she did nothing.
On June 7, I repeated my request for readable documents, and asked Semenova to “please send me a copy of your international passport and your ID for my records.”
On June 8, Semenova said she didn’t know where to scan the judicial letter but would do it the following afternoon. She then expressed reluctance about her IDs: “But I don’t understand where’s my passport? How is he related to this? I don’t understand.” She then went on that “I’m not in any way not trying to chide you, I know you certainly helped me and I owe you a debt, but I have so very much trouble right now plus it is a disease . . . I understand that now I owe you money and you worry about it. But even if the plot still be arrested, I hope the police can find the criminals and I can return you money…. I’ll find a way to pay you back.” That same day, I replied that “I borrowed money from my business to send money to you, and I have to account for all payments. The money for your debt is a business transaction that is subject to audit, like any other payment. . . . now I have nothing . . . just as I have no proof of the debt, or that you were robbed. When I did not get readable copies of what I asked for a long time ago, my business asked for your IDs. I cannot give you more help without proper documentation on file.”
On June 9, Semenova wrote “I understand, and if you need I’ll do it.” She also reminded me that we could talk on Skype for an interview, but that she had to visit Rita and borrow her laptop to do it. The next day, I set a Skype date for June 11 and reminded her to “Try to send all the information I asked for by then.”
On June 11, I had a Skype call with Semenova (maria.semmm) for about 1 hour (short extract, Exhibit 11a). The conversation was recorded and a transcript is attached (Exhibit 11b). There was no audio conversation; I asked questions from my company, and Semenova talked to herself, translated what I wrote, and then typed her responses. At one point in the recording, she seems to be smiling and mouthing words to someone else in her bedroom. I asked her how the visit to the hospital went for her wounds from the robbery, but she seemed not to have remembered what she told me on May 31 about the police sending her to a hospital to “fix the injury . . . from criminals.” I reminded her that I had not received any documents and that the extension of time her ‘lawyer’ had negotiated to pay the debt would expire on Monday June 13. Once again, she promised to do all this on Monday, but asked again for my help: “I’m sorry I’m even asking you for money. What I owe you I will give you, as hard as I was.” The woman in the Skype video matches all the photos sent me, as well as her ID and passport, so there is no doubt of her physical identity (Exhibits 11c-11d).
On June 13, Semenova sent me copies of her ID and passport (Exhibits 12-13). She claimed she had to return the laptop to Rita and that she could not call me again because the power/electricity went out in her house. My company then sent both documents out to be checked by a firm that replied 2 days later that the documents were 100% fake, without any reasons given. Later that day, she claimed to have gone to
Home Credit Bank with her lawyer, but “nothing good happens out there. The Bank told me that if in the course of this week don’t pay them, then on Monday the court has already arrested the land. That’s the whole story.” She also went to the police, “but in fact they still couldn’t find them. They said that they were unable to determine their possible whereabouts.” The bank also rejected the possibility of wiring money directly to them because of “cases of fraud and now they don’t practice such.” She concluded by painting a dire picture of what would happen to her: “I will have a court where I have been recognized as bankrupt as I was not able to repay the loan, take the land and I will owe you 200.000.”
On June 15 she gave me the name of the inspector and police station she allegedly went to following the robbery: “I was at the police station No. 3. It is located on Moskovskaya street. My investigator last name Ivanov.” That same day, I asked her the same questions I asked before: “Did you have time yet to send me the missing information I asked for about the debt and loan? I do need better copies for my records, or cannot help further. What is your lawyer’s address and phone number? What is the address of the branch bank of Home Credit where you owe this debt? Who is the branch manager there?”
In response, Semenova also expressed annoyance on June 15 with all my questions: “I run one end of town to another. And you still keep asking one thing after another.” Nevertheless, she answered as follows: “I completely forgot about the fact that you asked once again to scan a judicial letter. But I think I can’t make it better. Because I only have a copy of this letter. And it is in itself not the best quality so when I scanned it, it turned out so fuzzy. However, I can read all that is written there. The office of my lawyer to be on the Moskovskaya street if I’m not mistaken the 149 building. We communicate with him via email. The Bank is located at Prospekt Entuziastov 31.”
On June 16, Semenova wrote that her head was filled “with horrible thoughts about what today is already Friday and soon it will be the court. My lawyer told me that after the decision of the court, bailiffs can also start to come to me and begin to describe my property… I risk to remain without furniture, TV and computer. But I hope this will not happen.” She ended by deciding “that I will not tell you about any of their problems. I just let you know how I can repay you all.”
On June 18, Semenova claimed she had met with her lawyer and that he had told her I did not believe her story, which is quite true: “I have always been honest with you, I shared everything, all told, and you just don’t believe me.” She claimed surprise that I had asked her lawyer for documents, but that she took them back after he had examined them: “Why couldn’t you ask them from me? I showed you all what you asked, gave you all the information. The fact that a judicial letter is not clearly visible, I don’t think I’m responsible. When you’re scanning the copy quality deteriorates.” According to her lawyer, “He said you could help me if I gave you some documents. Why didn’t you tell me? Is it really so? And what should I do for this? I want to avoid a trial by any means. Because it can play a very negative role in my life. In addition, we are left without land and I will still owe you the money. And if the court will not, we can pay you the money and my mother still a little left.”
On June 20, I responded that she had not been helpful at all: “I have asked you for certain documents since May 16 and have not received them. I told you many, many times that I was responsible to my company for the money borrowed to solve this problem once and for all as of May 25. I did what I promised, loaned you the money, and find that nothing was solved at all.” I then told her that “I believe in documents: “You should know that my company sent your passport and ID out to a Russian agency to verify On June 15. the agency sent a report claiming your documents were ‘fake 100%.” I said I did not want to believe this, so paid “a second agency to examine what you sent me in case the first agency was wrong; so I am giving you the benefit of the doubt for now . . . after all, why would you lie to me if you are honest? It the second report comes back the same, then we will have a big problem, so you can save us both time and trouble now by telling me the truth. If your lawyer has seen your documents and believes in them, then borrow the money from him.” Oddly enough, nothing happened with the bank or the court on this deadline day. On June 21, Semenova professed to be humiliated that I had sent her documents out to be checked: “To Rob on the street could have anyone, and you in particular. Especially in Russia. With regard to the documents I gave you everything I could. Unfortunately I couldn’t whenever you desire to run and to scan them, unfortunately.”
On June 25, I wrote: “I regret that you feel humiliation, but that is nothing compared to the embarrassment caused me before my company. I vouched for you before them, and now am stuck with your debt. Yes, it is true that anyone could get robbed, but everyone gets an official copy of a police report with a victim number once the robbery is reported, which you don’t have. . . . Even if you were unable to run out and scan some papers for me, your lawyer had access to all documents in the bank’s file; all you had to do was ask him to send them to me, and he never did.”
That same day, Semenova replied that “what is hard to see it’s not my fault. I am a person who knows the Russian language could read everything. As for your company I am very grateful for trying to help, but unfortunately it does not work. The police gave me only one ticket that they received my application. More they didn’t give me anything, and as the lawyer said this is normal.”
On June 27, Semenova wrote that she was still grateful for all my help, but tried to excuse her behavior by claiming that “it is also a consequence of the fact that everything that was happening around me put a lot of pressure on me, I have constant stress, depression. The lack of a good mood.”
At that time, I received notice from the second company that checked her two IDs. “We have finished to check the International Russian Passport you sent us. It is real. We think so because all visible elements of this passport as: passport’s model; colors; proportions; picture; visible holograms; transliteration; letter; personal data (full name, place/date of birth): passport number (71’s series complies to the passports issued after 2015): typescript (corresponds to personal data; [and] signatures are genuine.” Also, “We have finished validatation process of Internal passport of Russia. It is real. We thoroughly examined all the elements of the document, ID number; check it in the list of invalid Russian passports; region where it was issued; date/place of birth; picture; stamp; visible watermarks; proportions; [and] signatures and concluded they are genuine.”
Based on this information, which seemed to confirm Semenova was not a scammer, I began to feel sorry for her again. Enough parts of her story made sense (even if other parts seemed dubious) that I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I talked with my partners over that weekend and made another withdrawal against my personal account to offer a second loan to her under the same conditions as before—namely, the entire sum would be returned to me with modest interest once the land debt was paid and the plot of land sold.
On June 28, I wired €3000 (215,000 rubles) to pay off the land debt in full, along with any penalties (Exhibit 14). The transaction is clearly marked as a second LOAN and was offered in consideration for being repaid, with interest, based on the sale of the land within one month of the debt being paid. I sent Semenova a copy of the wire and stated clearly that “I will NEED a receipt showing the transfer and a release that this debt has been discharged.” That same day Semenova wrote, “Don’t think I’m not grateful to you! I’ll be grateful all my life!!”
On July 7, Semenova confirmed my money had arrived, and that “Tomorrow we will be at the Bank and see what we can do.”
On July 8 (Friday), Semenova wrote that she and her lawyer “were in the Bank and it seems like we managed to resolve the conflict. On Monday, I must transfer funds from your account. All it will control is my lawyer, so I hope all goes well.” The next day, I reminded her to “Please send a receipt that the debt is paid when all is over.”
On July 14, Semenova claimed that “The money from my account transferred to the Bank [Home Credit]. Everything should be fine. Now my lawyer needs to make sure that my debt is closed and the loan paid two months in advance and that the Bank takes the statement out of court. Now that the site is not in danger. He’s been doing this.”
When I heard nothing more, I wrote Semenova on July 26, asking “Has the land case been settled? Did the bank act to remove it from court?” When there was no answer, I wrote Semenova and her lawyer on
August 2, asking again “Have you heard from your lawyer at all? I wrote him 2 weeks ago for a receipt and proof that everything is settled and have gotten nothing from him. Did he write you at all?”
On August 4, Semenova claimed that “Yes, I have contacted a lawyer last week and he said that the whole incident is almost settled. There is one caveat, I need to go next week in Syktyvkar to the mother, there will need to take some help from one service, I don’t know how to call it in English.”
On August 7, I wrote Semenova and complained that “I tried to contact your lawyer now four times but he does answer any of my messages, or provide the documentation I have asked for several times to show your case is settled. Can you ask him for those documents, please?” I also asked again about the land: “when will [your mother] sell the land and be done with this?”
On August 17, Semenova claimed she had not heard from her lawyer either, but maybe he had “changed his email,” but that she would contact him that week. “As for the land it’s okay.. She’s still our property and mother involved in selling it. Soon everything will be all right.” That same day, I wrote back, reminding her that “I need a copy of the bank transfer showing my money paid from your account to that of the bank. And then I need a copy of the signed release, discharging you of this awful debt.”
On August 18, Semenova claimed “The court documents with a lawyer. I’ll take them from him after paying him… But unfortunately even this money I have now is almost there.” She then sent me a screenshot of a bank transfer of 204.623 rubles allegedly made on July 11 (Exhibit 15). On August 22, I raised a few questions about the transfer: “There are two correspondent accounts of Home Credit and Finance Bank in the document. One of them belongs to the office in Nizny Novgorod (301018……818) and the other to the office in Moscow (301018….245), but not in your city where you [owe] the debt. But I do not see your beneficiary`s account number in the document, so how could the bank identify the payment as coming from you? And then there is no memo section referencing why the payment was made. Please explain.” None of these questions ever were answered. I also asked Semenova if she had contacted her lawyer about the court document showing the release of debt?
On August 29, Semenova wrote that “Last week I took my attorney document from the court, tomorrow at work I’ll scan it and post it to you.” On August 31, I received the new bailiff letter (dated July 28), which has since been confirmed to be a forgery (Exhibit 16).
On September 10, I asked again about the land: “Has your mother sold the land yet?” Two days later,
Semenova wrote back that “the plot now no one is buying, because in the fall before the winter nobody wants it. Normally, land buying in the spring before the summer.” This, of course, is not what
Semenova claimed on 4 months before, which I pointed out to her on September 14: “It is disappointing news about the land, as we agreed back on May 20 that she would sell the land ‘within a month of his own, at the market price and then we would be able to pay off the debt completely.’ Now it seems that this land cannot be sold so quickly . .. how will your mother keep up payments until next Spring, if she still has problems at work? I do not want to hear that she will default again. . . .”
Semenova ‘Forced’ to Move From Official Address
Keeping up with her string of ‘disasters,’ Semenova wrote on September 12 that on “Friday I got the bad news from the owner of the apartment where I live now. She said this month she wants to sell the apartment so I have one week to find another apartment. No money at all, and now I have again, look for money not only the apartment but also on the collateral and on real estate services… Costs just incredibly much…” She also claimed that in her bank account there was no money.
On September 14, I pointed out that 30 days’ notice is typical to move, especially if rent has already been paid a month in advance. That same day, Semenova claimed “In fact, the tenant gave me 2 weeks as indicated in the contract, but said that it is better to leave this week, because the apartment already has a buyer. And the week is hardly something that can change. To rent an apartment is very expensive, requires immediately a large sum because we still have to give the Deposit to the tenant and to pay a Commission to the realtor. In this apartment in which I live, I live for many years, as soon as I finished high school I immediately moved here. Then there were others, the terms of the lease than it is now, so it was easier for me.” She claimed she had talked with her mother, but didn’t “think she can help me with money. . . . Very hard… I don’t know what to do, I hope to figure something out.”
At this point, it was obvious she was fishing for money, but I ignored all her entreaties for help.
On September 19 (Monday), Semenova claimed she had “Agreed with the hostess that will leave at the end of this week.” Three days later, the story grew more pathetic: “It’s the end of the week, but I still have not decided anything about your home… I don’t know what to do… have even thought to take a small personal loan, but I don’t want to mess with that…. Very difficult situation( Besides the fact that I need money for a new apartment + fees and the Deposit, I still have to decide how I will carry all your stuff.”
On September 24, she said: “Now I’m sitting in the guests at Rita’s, because next week I will already have to leave my apartment, I consulted with her what to do, she said I can stay but no more than a week…
Now I need to decide what to do and what to do next after that, and I need to decide what to do with all my stuff… it’s complicated..” She claimed she “really don’t want to burden you with my problems again,” but continued to do just that, as I ignored her pleas for help, other than to offer my sympathy the next day.
On September 25, Semenova continued to beg for help: “Now the main problem is to decide what to do with all my stuff, and then where am I going to live after this week… And solve them without the financial possibility is almost impossible… Okay, I’ll think how to do it.”
I did not hear from her for a few weeks. On October 7, I asked, “How is your mother? Is she keeping up payments on the land? When will it be sold?” That same day, she wrote back about her new living arrangements, which she made without ‘money’: “Now I live in a rented room. I found a room in an apartment. In one of the other rooms also lives a girl, a little younger than me, and in the third room two guys live. The girl is studying in the Institute in which I studied:) And the guys are working. Now I live there.” She did not give me her new address, but added, “Yes, mom paid the loan payment, but the land has not yet been sold.”
Third Loan to Semenova
On October 11, yet a third ‘disaster’ occurred when Semenova wrote that she had a “big problem,” as the night before (Monday) she was home alone, trying to take a bath, when the police knocked at her door, demanded she come with them as a witness to a crime, and she left in such a hurry that she “completely forgot about the water!!” By the time she got back home, “the water flooded the apartment in which I live and an apartment which is under us!!” The owner of the apartment below her was not at home, but when he returned, he said “he had a lot of things in the apartment were injured and damaged the repair of the apartment! He called his lawyer and everything was fixed…” Furthermore, her alleged landlady “said that all the damage that was done to her apartment should I pay for! It’s just a horror… Now I again spend the night at Rita’s….”
Apparently Semenova realized she could not get more money simply by being ‘forced’ out of an apartment, but that she had to invoke the word ‘court’: “Now it will be trial and I don’t know what will….
It is full of nightmare…”
On October 12, I said I did not understand why the police would need a witness to a crime after the crime had occurred and suggested that any damage should be covered by insurance. That same day, Semenova agreed that her going with the police was voluntary, but claimed to have been “little confused and frightened… you’re Probably heard that in Russia everyone is afraid of the police because there are many terrible stories associated with them…” She claimed that the house was old and without insurance and that the landlady and downstairs neighbor “agreed to meet with me on Friday to resolve the situation….
Don’t know what to do now…”
On October 17, Semenova wrote that on the previous Friday the “landlords say that their apartment was not insured. In this case, the offender must pay all costs associated with the damage that I caused…” She claimed if no agreement was reached to “confine costs for the damage,” then they would “solve everything in court… in this case they would be entitled to sue me more money for the expertise evaluation, lawyers and other expenses associated with court expenses.”
On October 20, I wrote that “even if it goes to court, there is no money to collect from you, so it will be an empty order. . . . so they cannot do anything to you if you cannot pay.” Once again, I asked about what happened “with the police and the guys who robbed you? It seems they are not scared of the law, are they?” That same day, Semenova wrote that she was “in need of someone’s support,” as now she was living in Rita’s apartment, as Rita and her mother were allegedly on vacation for 10 days in St. Petersburg. Semenova claimed she had consulted with her former ‘lawyer’ (Kolomeytsev) who told her that “their claim is justified and the court may well consider it as my fault was harmed other people’s property.” The court then would decide how to get money from her and “can make it so that each month they will receive part of my salary,” leaving her only with a subsistence wage. She claimed that “there is nothing except this plot of land… Now it cannot be sold, firstly because winter is coming and nobody wants it. In winter no one is agriculture, as a lot of snow, I think you understand it.” She finished her email by asking me what she should do, while begging again for my help: “Please help me… I’m just at a loss. I hate everything.”
On October 22, I asked Semenova how she knew if the police were real: “If he were a real cop, he could use his mobile phone and call for another cop to be a witness?” I also doubted the flood story: “Russian flats are concrete blocks too, so how could there be any damage on a lower floor anyway? . . . Have you ever seen any proof of damage?” As a test to see how she would react, I suggested she just disappear and find another place to live; if the police there “cannot even find the two crooks who robbed you, who were even on video, so how much time will they spend trying to track you down?”
On October 23, Semenova claimed to be offended that I thought her ‘stupid’ at not to be able to identify a real police officer: “It was a real policeman, they arrested a drunk driver and they had 2 witnesses, as prescribed by law, that the design of such a crime need 2 witnesses. Another policeman cannot be a witness, it’s against the law.” She claimed all damage was recorded, and that “the mistress of apartment has my passport data. They are spelled out in the contract which is me and her. So just move to another apartment will not work.” As for her alleged robbery, she now stated that “To find the criminals who robbed me has failed because they are unable to establish their identity and their data. Just silhouettes on the camera does not help to find them. Yes the police in this country is not working as I would like. Maybe they have just stopped even to look for them, but I can’t affect it. The level of solved crimes in our country is very low and it is not no secret to anyone.” She finished by claiming she had no options and begged me again, as “I just don’t know who else to ask help.”
On October 27, I pointed out that “On June 2, you told me that the police ‘were able to establish the identity of the attackers,’ but could not find them. Now you tell me something different and that they are
“unable to establish their identity.” Which is true? And you should still be following up with Ivanov every week to show you are not letting this matter drop and pressing him to find those crooks.” I also doubted how she could serve as a witness to a crime after the fact: “all police cars carry a camera to record arrests, and you could not witness anything other than what the alleged police told you to witness, so your presence there was useless.” Finally, I reminded her that, to date, I had “sent you more than 425,000 rubles to help out and have not been paid back as promised. You keep saying about the land that ‘it cannot be sold, firstly because winter is coming and nobody wants it.’ But I did not send you money for the land in winter! I sent it in the spring (on May 24) and in the summer (on June 28) and the land was to have been sold within one month of receipt and my money repaid well before winter. That didn’t happen and now I suffer because of it.” I advised her to “borrow money from a bank, your friends, or your family.”
That same day, Semenova claimed the “house in which I live was built in the days of Nikita Khrushchev” and so water could flood from one floor to another. As for the land, she wrote that “You said that the land should be sold early, but there was trial area cannot sell.” The fact that no trial ever happened did not occur to her while lying. As for the robbery, she claimed she could not make the police do anything. Finally she acknowledged all the help I already had given her: “Yes, I remember that I already have helped. And I will never forget! You know how I appreciate it!” Once again she repeated her plea for help:
“I was just asking because you know I don’t have many friends, and the financial condition of my family is not very good.”
On October 29, I asked 3 questions, including how much money now was owed, what she intended to offer to repay another loan, and how she proposed to “pay the loan back?”
On October 30, Semenova replied: “The examination assessed all the damage in 187.000 rubles. I don’t know what I can offer you in exchange and I’ll pay back, but I’ll try to figure something out. Can be when will be able to sell the land from the money I can give you all your debt.” That same day, I wrote and asked her for “a scanned copy of the examination document and translate the largest charges, I will look at it tomorrow, but no promises now.”
On November 3, she sent me the alleged “scanned examination report” (Exhibit 17). The document was not translated, but was stamped with a seal and I asked some Russian friends to translate it for me.
On November 10, Semenova wrote again in desperation, claiming her downstairs neighbor again came to her, asking “when am I going to pay for damages”? For the third time, she begged for my help: “I know I cause you a lot of inconvenience, but please can you help me? . . . What a horror… once again I turn to you… I am ashamed of it, but I really hope you can understand me.”
That same day, I reminded Semenova that she had not translated the document for me, so I had to ask other Russian friends for help. According to them, the document claimed to be made on behalf of the
“Maintenance Department Manager Mrs. Vishnyakova VV” for “apartment /flat №9 address Saratov,
Leninsky region Stroyteley lane 68 to check if the considered for the flooding from the above apartment №13.” I pointed out that the alleged examination document did not contain any costs, so wondered what the alleged 187.000 rubles covered—apartment No. 13 belonging to Semenova or just that in apartment No. 9 belonging to the neighbor?
That same day, Semenova claimed to have “misunderstood you, about the translation” and that “The repair estimate for my downstairs neighbor made along with a professional in my presence.” Semenova added that her apartment suffered little damage: “The apartment in which I live suffered only flooring, laminate flooring and very little furniture. The hostess and my roommates, we agreed that this damage does not cause us in this time of discomfort, so now she doesn’t want to fix. She said that all that was injured at her apartment to renovate of about 20-30 thousand rubles, and we did not make examination. Agreed that while I live in her apartment, you must first pay with his downstairs neighbor, and then I’ll have to give the money to fix it. Agreed that we will go together to buy the necessary material and hire a team that will do it, so I can see how much all the repairs. But she is not rushing me, so now the main task is to pay with downstairs neighbor.”
On November 11, I wrote that if “there was an appraiser there, then there should be something in writing that says the repairs will cost 187000 rubles and no more.” Furthermore, I pointed out that I didn’t “know what your mother’s land is worth, what it will be sold for and how soon it will be sold, so I have no way of knowing if I ever will be paid back if the land is not sold, or if the money from the sale will be enough to pay me back.”
On November 17, Semenova sent me an alleged itemized document from a company called Ocenka for the 187.000 rubles in damages (Exhibit 18). She translated it for me as follows:
“The result of The evaluation and the conclusion about market value.
The object of evaluation: the right to claim damages caused to the apartment located at Saratov, Leninsky district., Prospekt Stroiteley, Dom 68b apartment 9 and stored therein at the time of the property.
Cost: market value.
Evaluated rights: the right requirements.
The purpose of the valuation: determination of market value of the subject property. Intended use of evaluation results: compensation for property damage, including in the trial. Customer: Ionov Yuri Pavlovich.
Reason for evaluation: Contract No. 10/243-O 13 Oct 2016. The date of valuation (date of valuation): October 14, 2016. Date of report: October 17, 2016.
The value obtained in the result of the application of the cost approach: 187 thousand virtually any.
The total market value of the right to claim damages caused to the apartment, located at: Saratov, Leninsky district, Prospekt Stroiteley, Dom 68b apartment 9 and stored therein at the time of the assets as of the valuation date 14 Oct 2016 is: 187 thousand virtually any. The assessment is performed in accordance with the requirements of the Federal law “On valuation activities in the Russian Federation” from 29.07.1998 year and Federal valuation standards. . . .”
On November 18, I asked some Russian friends to confirm the above translation, who pointed out that the real market price of the damaged flat was valued, and “based on this they created the amount which is supposed to cover the damage of the flat № 9” of 187.000 rubles. My friends could not “see the name of the department or company who made this procedure. Should be some official form.” I wrote Semenova to ask the name of the “official company or department [that] created this document”? As her only asset was the plot of land, I asked her if she had “an appraisal for your mother’s land to see if it will be enough to cover all debts?”
That same day, Semenova replied that the company who did the evaluation was called “Prof-ocenka.” She claimed she had “no land appraisal, but the market value varies 700-750 thousand rubles. Mom’s ready to sell it even cheaper this price to cover all the debts,” and hoped she had answered all my questions.
On November 20, I answered in the negative, as “The problem with knowing only the market value of the land is not knowing what mortgage amount is left on it, as that would be subtracted from the 750,000 ruble price. If I loaned you the 187,000 that would bring your debt to me up to 609,000 rubles (207,000 + 215,000 + 187,000) and your mom would get nothing from the sale. Does she know this???” That same day, Semenova confirmed she was authorized to enter into a contract for her mother: “Yes, I was telling my mom about this. We had a deal… So in this regard there will be no misunderstandings.”
On November 21, I asked again about the remaining mortgage on the land, so that I knew how much of the 750.000 ruble sale price would be kept by the bank. That same day, Semenova claimed not to “know the exact amount, but I now know what my mom regularly pays the mortgage,” and that she thought only “a small balance” remained of “3-4 months,” which implied the land would be owned completely by April 2017. Semenova finished by claiming she also needed 30.000 rubles to “to do more repairs in the apartment in which I live.”
On November 23, Semenova reassured me that her mother’s financial situation was better: “After the story of the debt was settled, she made a number of some changes in the store concept, changes in the volume of sales and purchases, helped her brother, and now the situation has stabilized. Now nearing the Christmas holidays, so she hopes that will be even better.”
On November 24, Semenova claimed her downstairs neighbor came to her asking when she was “going to pay him the money. He’s a little annoyed [and] said that otherwise he in December will go to court.”
On November 25, I wrote Semenova with my conditions for a third loan of 217.000 rubles and reminding her that her “debt to me will be 639,000 rubles.” Among those conditions, she pledged her mother would sell the land by May 1 and then repay all 639.000 owed no later than May15, 2017; if this were not done, then she had to agree to pay “5% monthly interest on the principal and begin making payments . . . each month beginning on May 15, 2017, until the land is sold.” She also had to pledge to give me signed written legal receipts from her neighbor for the 187.000 rubles and from her landlady for 30.000 rubles. That same day, Semenova agreed to all conditions: “I received your terms, I believe that it is acceptable conditions. With regard to receipts from the neighbor and the owner of the apartment is a natural condition, because otherwise I wouldn’t give him the money. . . . Now, with the sale of the land, I also agree. All your terms I find acceptable and agree to them. . . . Thank you for your help. Once again you help me with my problems. I’m eternally grateful for it!” Even if by email, this was a valid contract.
I asked Semenova if she had changed her address on the bank account. On November 25, she replied that
“Not in a Bank account I didn’t change anything.” I then wired her €3200 (217,000 rubles) to honor my end of the contract (Exhibit 19).
On December 2, Semenova confirmed that the money had arrived on November 29, that she would wire money to her neighbor on Monday December 5, and obtain a receipt. She also said she had talked with her landlady and would “do repairs in my apartment until after the New Year.”
On December 5, Semenova wrote that “Tomorrow after work I’ll go to the Bank to make the transfer of money, and then my neighbor will write me a letter that he no longer has any claim to me. A repair in my apartment, I’m going to do after the new year.” Once again she thanked me, wrote “it’s great that you helped me! I’m very grateful for that, and you know it!!”
On December 17, I asked if she had paid “off your neighbor and get a receipt yet?” Two days later,
Semenova replied, “Yes, I have last week paid off with a neighbor, and he wrote me a receipt. It lies at me, I just keep forgetting it. I’ll send it to you as promised in the coming days.” No receipt ever arrived.
On December 29, Semenova wrote that she was going to visit her mother in Syktyvkar, would leave the next day, and write me when she came “back to Saratov.” She returned on January 8, 2017.
On January 11, I reminded her that I had not yet received a receipt from her neighbor.
On January 17, Semenova apologized for the delay in writing, but claimed her “computer was broken again,” that she didn’t “know what I would do if I were not a teacher and I didn’t have teachers as friends on computer,” but that her friend “was able to fix my computer” that day. Two days later I replied and reminded her not to “forget to send me the receipt for the repair!”
I never heard from again, and she has disappeared along with her ‘lawyer.’ Over the last six months, I have tried to contact both by phone, email, and Skype; the messages go through but are ignored.
I have since learned that the apartment at Prospekt Stroiteley, Dom 68b No. 13, is now unoccupied but was lived in by a guy and girl. The apartment below (No. 9) did have some repairs done with my money, but no one was there at the time of the visit by my lawyer. It seems Semenova stayed around until after the New Year and then planned her disappearance after then.
As the conditions of the loans were never honored, and the money never repaid, it is clear that this was a sophisticated act of criminal fraud by both scammers.
In summary, there is an old saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
We did everything reasonable people can be expected to do to protect ourselves. We did not make any payments through known ‘scammer outlets’ such as Western Union or Moneygram, but insisted on a bank account—thinking that Russian banks would perform the same due diligence as EU and US banks by not opening accounts without valid IDs and verified addresses. All photos sent by Semenova were searched online to ensure none were stolen from other sources; in addition, we conducted an online Skype interview with Semenova, and the woman on Skype matched the photos she sent. We verified Semenova’s official address by sending her a parcel with confirmed receipt; she received the parcel, but apparently it was picked up by an accomplice named Rita and delivered to her. We asked for Semenova’s ID and passport and checked both twice, with a second company confirming in detail that both were genuine. We asked for all relevant documentation (including court papers), and what we got turned out to be illegible and/or forged. All relevant money transfers were clearly marked as LOANS and not gifts, and the terms of the loan were spelled out clearly and agreed to by email and thus constitute a valid contract (i.e., offer, consideration, and acceptance).
Nevertheless, despite these precautions, we were scammed out of 639.000 rubles (about €9000) when the scammers disappeared and failed to repay the loans. Not only are they accused of criminal fraud in getting these loans under false circumstances, but they are demonstrably guilty of forging identity documents, opening a bank account with fake documents, knowingly creating fraudulent court documents and supporting papers, faking a robbery, and involving accomplices who aided and abetted the fraud, including using one person to impersonate a ‘lawyer’ in order to deceive and give credence to the scam.
Our goal here is to track down both scammers, file a criminal fraud complaint against both, and pursue them in court to get our money back in full, along with interest, attorney fees and all court costs.