Here’s an online dating horror story for the record books. A Missouri man pretending to be a U.S. Marshal was dating women from Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Florida on the matchmaking website “Plenty of Fish,” and allegedly managed to convince all three ladies to buy him a number of sports cars. The enterprising swindler then went on to tell the women that the cars had been stolen- but he actually sold them. Using this scam, he racked up a Lamborghini, an Escalade, a Corvette, and a Mustang. That’s a serious luxury car collection!
The media has been reeling since these allegations came to light over the weekend. The case is still under investigation and no convictions have been handed down just yet. Here’s what we know:
Before his arrest, twenty-eight year old Timothy Rossell had already attracted attention while driving his white 2014 Lamborghini Gallardo around Union, Missouri. Residents had noticed Rossell revving the 12-cylinder engine on the road, and officials were suspicious of the man driving the $200,000 vehicle, which seemed out of place. Fox News reports that local lawman Detective Sergeant Bisher wondered what Rossell did for a living, to be able to buy such a car. As it turns out, he seems to have been impersonating a U.S. Marshal under the assumed name Austyn Gardner. While using this identity, he apparently coaxed his fiancée into buying him an Escalade, a Ford Mustang Shelby, and a Can-Am Spyder three-wheeled motorcycle. Fox News reports that Rossell also opened three credit card accounts and a PayPal account using his fiancée’s name. When the woman realized what had occurred, she confronted Rossell, who fled in the Lamborghini. U.S. Marshals caught up with him later, after the car had blown a tire. Upon inspection, they discovered the man had a fake U.S. Marshal identity card and a bulletproof vest.
According to authorities, this wasn’t the first time Rossell had conned a sweetheart into buying him a car. The Lambo came courtesy of a woman from Florida, who knew him as Deputy U.S. Marshal Austyn Labella. She’d also purchased him a Corvette Z06 and loaned him $27,000. A third woman from Pennsylvania was reportedly also conned by Rossell. While the investigation is ongoing, so far Rossell has been charged with identity theft and impersonating a federal officer, says Fox News. He has also previously racked up arrest warrants in two Missouri counties under another name, Rosselli. Missouri officials have been after him since 2012 regarding a felony theft case, while in 2013 he was implicated in a stealing case concerning a rental property, and the unconnected theft of two puppies.
While there seems to be a mountain of evidence against Rossell, the case raises more questions than it answers. How could so many women be taken in by this scam? Is it possible for dating websites to protect their users from identity fraud? And how easy is it to impersonate a lawman, anyway? As authorities struggle to untangle the jumble of evidence, internet chatter continues to swirl, alternately blaming and sympathizing with the three women involved. Yet how can we blame the unsuspecting victims of a seemingly very experienced conman? If this case has online daters on edge, that’s probably a good thing. Cupid may wear a blindfold, but most of us can’t afford that luxury.