Romance email scam drives father to suicide

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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@gcluley

Broken heart
A ghastly story reaches me of a man who committed suicide, after losing $50,000 to West African romance scammers.

67-year-old Al Circelli, shot himself in the living room of his home in Yonkers, New York, after – his family say – he became embroiled in an international romance scam that caused him to lose thousands of dollars and even steal from his relatives.

Circelli’s son Peter says he stumbled across evidence that his late father had wired considerable amounts of money to Ghana, and discovered email messages and photos on his father’s laptop supposedly from a woman called Aisha, who wanted to come to the USA to begin a new life and promised to bring a small fortune with her

According to media reports, “Aisha” needed money to be sent to her in Ghana via Western Union to pay for expenses – and when Circelli ran out of his own money, he took out credit cards in his son’s name and stopped making mortgage payments.

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Peter Circelli says that his father commited suicide on the day that “Aisha” was due to arrive in the USA but, of course, she never showed up. Bizarrely, an email message has been found on the dead man’s laptop from a Ghanaian intermediary in the money transactions claiming that “Aisha” had also killed herself.

What’s really sickening about criminal scammers is that they are taking advantage of the vulnerable – whether the victims be middle-aged men and women who are guilty of nothing but a desire to find love, or the naive who believe that there investment opportunities which arrive out of the blue could bring them fortunes, there seem to be plenty of people who do still fall for these scams.

And, as we see in Al Circelli’s story, can actually end in real tragedy.

* Image source: Face it’s Flickr photostream (Creative Commons)


Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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