Internet scammers arrested in Russia 

President Putin ordered to arrest Internet scam artists after receiving letter from Australian man


Anna Lazareva, whose photos were used by the gang under dozens different aliases

In May 2001 Terry, an Australian man scammed by a group of internet scammers, sent his story to Russian Bride Cyber Guide's Black List. We published his report.

But unlike many other men, Terry not only sent a warning to others but wanted to do more and so continued tracking down the criminals determined to have them prosecuted. He launched a webpage with information on the scammers to collect reports from other victims. In the next step he found and contacted the Russian Embassy in Australia, numerous Russian based newspapers and then various Russian government agencies, including the much feared Russian Tax Police, sending them the scam details. Later he found the official website for Russian government and used it to sent a letter to President Putin about these offenders, not expecting his complaint to ever reach the eyes of the President himself. In his letter to the President Terry implied that it was a matter of Russian honor that these criminals be brought to justice, as they were bringing great discredit on their people and country.

Unbelievably, the letter got into the right hands, the President himself , who ordered the criminals be tracked down.

Some months later Terry was surprised to receive Emails from the Russian Police and Interpol asking for details of the scam. Later he was contacted by and questioned by the State and Federal Police in Australia on behalf of Russian investigators, soon the criminals were caught. Terry was one of only 10 men who came forward to testify in the criminal case but it was his letter that made President Putin order an investigation. Terry did not know that it was his letter to the President that initiated the investigation until he was contacted and informed of it by a journalist for Sydney's Sunday Herald, who had received the details from Moscow after the criminals had been arrested.


Text of the letter Terry sent to President Putin

The scammer gang Terry encountered was started by a husband and a wife, Yuri and Anna Lazarev, Russian citizens. They used photos of Anna to lure men, and female acquaintances to collect wire transfers. At first they used the real name of the wife (Anna Lazareva) to collect money but then moved into using names of other females to receive wire transfers from all over the world. Other aliases were Alfia Magdeeva, Marina Chumachenko, Vasilisa Schelkonogova, Anna Porfireva, Olga Trophimova, and many others.

34-year-old Yuri Lazarev made a set of photos of his wife Anna and was posting them at large Internet personals. Scammers then initiated correspondence with men pretending to be a single Russian girl looking for a serious relationship. The plot was a 27-year old virgin who wanted to wait until she finds the right man. She would soon fall in love with her correspondent and ask him for money for visa and tickets to join the man in his country. After receiving money, the gang would stop correspondence.

Later Lazarev made photos of other women and used them to post on the Internet. The women were unaware their photos were used in a scam.

The gang was contacting hundreds men a day and used major personals websites with their huge databases to solicit correspondence with the male members.

It is believed that the gang, based in Chelyabinsk, Russia, were some of the first dating scammers that used Internet personals to rip off men seeking serious relationship and marriage with Russian women.

According to Chelyabinsk police, the group scammed more than 1,500  men and extorted more than 1,5 million US Dollars from them, in the period of 2000-2002. The spokesperson for Chelyabinsk police said if it was not for Terry's letter to the President Putin, they could continue scamming men through Internet personals.

Recently the story hit pages of newspapers all over the world, starting from the publication in Sydney's Herald.

A telephone interview with Terry was published in the Sunday issue along with details they received from Moscow, and initiated another wave of talks about Internet marriage scams in Australia.

But according to Terry, that was not the whole story.

One could expect that after being scammed Terry would give up on Internet dating and particularly Russian women; quite the opposite. He continued his search and is currently involved with a Ukrainian girl. Terry continues to have a very high opinion of Russian women and Russians in general, and opposes often applied media stereotypes of Russian women on the Internet, being only gold-diggers and scammers etc.

This is what Terry said in his communication with Russian Brides Cyber Guide, after his unbelievable story came public:

"I have commented on similar print stories in the past. I have asked them why they only enjoy labeling and stereotyping Russian and Filipino women on the Internet as all being "mail order brides", immigration scammers, prostitutes, likely slaves, gold diggers or only escaping poverty etc - and not all the Australian women who do the same thing. I have asked them why they always portray any Australian men who are interested in them as being lonely social misfits, unattractive to Australian women, simple, pitiful or violent towards women etc. I ask them, have Australian women never married for reasons other than love? Unfortunately and not unexpectedly they don't bother to reply or change their populist attitude in subsequent stories. 

"In the past, I have written to the Prime Minister, Immigration Minister and various talk back radio programs in Sydney, recommending that we encourage increased migration from Russia and Ukraine as it my opinion that your people assimilate very easily and become highly productive, decent, loyal assets to this country, unlike many migrants from other areas. I complained that it seems we only want people from there if they are athletes or coaches who can win us a few extra gold medals at the Olympics.

"In the year 2001-2002 Australia unfortunately only accepted 187 migrants of all classes from those two countries, - despite the fact that they have a combined, and highly educated, population exceeding 200 million.

"Those figures for the 2001 - 2002 are particularly annoying especially when one compares them with some other countries. In this same year we accepted 1,100 more migrants from Lebanon, ( of 6,000 from the Middle East ) which has a population of only 3.5 million, despite the fact that that community here having a 25% unemployment rate and a not small minority being very troublesome, particularly in Sydney, with clearly little interest in assimilating. I wrote several times to Ministers regarding this disparity, I have not been able to get the immigration figures for the 2002 - 2003 period to compare, I hope they are much better than the previous year. We certainly need better quality migrants than many of the ones we are currently accepting.

"Until today I was unaware that your site is based in Australia. I posted a warning on your site a few years ago regarding a Russian scammer I encountered. I actually went to a bit of trouble and took my complaint to the very top and there has been a recent development in that story. It looks like I am going to have the last laugh.

"When I said I went right to the top with a complaint about a Russian scammer, that is exactly what I did, the very top.

"I actually told the very excited Herald journalist, when he suddenly rang me out of the blue late last week, that I really didn't want the story published and I especially didn't want my name or parent's address mentioned, the Herald ignored both these wishes. I told him that in the past the Australian media have almost always taken great delight in applying sweeping, insulting and very unfair stereotypes and labels to people in similar stories. 

"As I wouldn't agree to an interview (or photo) prior, the Herald article only told half the story. In my last Email to these criminals I told them that "I would get them using the same tool they had used to dirtily get me and other men." If nothing else I thought I might be able to get them for Tax fraud, so I also contacted the Russian Tax Police by Email. I actually did some of the detective work myself, on the Internet, regarding how many other victims there might be and how much money might be involved. These details I then had Emailed to the Russian Police who had by then contacted me via Email. I found these criminals had many aliases so I sent lists of them to the Moscow Embassies of many countries to try to make sure they could not get visas to travel internationally with on their stolen money. I posted warnings on various web sites including leaving the Email address of the Russian Tax Police, and general Police then investigating the matter, so other victims could get involved.

"As a result of this story, radio and TV stations now want to talk to me, which I am not keen on."

And those are Terry's words that ended the article in Sydney's Sun Herald:

"There are hundreds of Russian scammers on the internet but there are hundreds of thousands of Russian women, along with millions of women from other countries, with honest intentions and the usual dreams."

So, what are the lessons?

 

Russian Brides Cyber Guide expresses our sincere gratitude to Terry for his comments and information.


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