Elrod’s love affair began with the sort of dodgy Facebook message that most people delete on sight.She discovered that message in March 2011, 20 months before opening her First Community account, while cleaning out her junk-strewn “Other” mailbox during a respite at a Charlotte mall.At each stop she’d wire another chunk of money to Sinclair.Sometimes, if her phone bill was due or her refrigerator was barren, she kept a few dollars for herself.Elrod and Mc Gregor were soon chatting online for more than 12 hours a day.Mc Gregor often talked about the agony of losing his wife, Susan, who he said had died in a car accident in Edinburgh in 2003.The 45-year-old divorcée and junior-college dropout now lived in Bluefield, West Virginia, a fading town near the Appalachian coalfields where she’d been raised.In addition to collecting 4 in unemployment benefits each week, Elrod made ends meet by hustling: She resold packages of discount toilet paper and peddled small quantities of prescription drugs.
She’d been out of work for a year, ever since quitting her longtime clerical job at the county public health department in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Anxious about her future as an older single woman, Elrod lapped up the kind words about her looks—too few men seemed to appreciate her soft chin, wavy hair, and prominent brown eyes.
She wrote back, thanking the sender for complimenting her beauty and asking how he’d found her.
Elrod never let this money linger: She always showed up at the bank a few hours after a transfer cleared, to withdraw as much as ,500 in cash.
She would then return on subsequent days to make additional four-figure withdrawals until the account was nearly empty.
Despite her hand-to-mouth circumstances, Elrod’s new account soon began to receive a series of sizable wire transfers, many of which originated abroad.