A man known as the "Worst Boyfriend on the Upper East Side" is accused of scamming at least five Manhattan women out of over $1.8 million, according to prosecutors. Nelson Counne, 70, allegedly targeted lonely women on online dating sites by portraying himself as a wealthy art collector and investor. He then convinced them to invest heavily in fraudulent companies, prosecutors said.
Counne used aliases, such as Nelson or Justin Roth, to lure his victims, prosecutors said. He allegedly claimed to have access to investment opportunities with the Alibaba Group and a fake start-up company he co-owned with a former Google executive. Once he convinced his victims to make their initial investments, he would pressure them to give more money, often citing expenses and salaries.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Kofi Sansculotte said in court that "almost all" of Counne's representations were false, adding that "the money put into his accounts by the victims were never used for any investments but were instead used to perpetuate the illusion of his wealth to new victims and to repay previous victims who had detected his fraud."
The accused scammer did not have homes in London or the South of France, as he had claimed, and had never traveled internationally, according to Sansculotte. He was charged with fraud and grand larceny, and prosecutors allege that the only funds in his accounts came from his romance scams.
According to Greenwich Time, Counne has previously faced charges of defrauding a Connecticut woman out of $500,000 in 2021. It is unclear how or if that case was resolved.
Dannielle Von Lehman, Counne's lawyer, argued that her client has always shown up for court appearances, despite his alleged misdeeds in the past. She also stated that Counne has a prior criminal history dating back to 2007, but provided no further details.
Counne was ordered held on $150,000 cash bail or a bond of up to $750,000 by Judge Gregory Carro until his next court appearance on May 3.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg stated that Counne's "sole source of income for the past eight years was money he swindled." He allegedly used the funds to repay past victims, lure in new ones, and fund his lifestyle.
If you're dating online, you might want to be cautious about falling for someone who seems too good to be true. A recent case in Manhattan has exposed how romance scams can result in significant financial losses. Use iFindCheaters' background check to make sure your partner is who they say they are and protect yourself from possible fraud.