KEY WEST, Fla. – Words With Friends has been a popular online game since its debut in 2009, played by millions worldwide. According to deputies, however, a Florida Keys woman using the app would end up getting played herself.
According to a May 2021 Monroe County Sheriff’s Office arrest warrant obtained by Local 10 News, the woman contacted Monroe County deputies on May 6, 2020 to report that she had been the victim of fraud.
Deputies said she told investigators that she had befriended a man named “David McDonald” while playing the game. “David,” she said, worked overseas on an oil rig.
“David” told her he needed $17,600 to repair his equipment, the warrant states, so she sent the money on Sept. 13, 2019 with the expectation that he would pay her back the next month. That never happened, deputies said.
Authorities said it turned out the account wasn’t owned by a man named “David McDonald.”
Instead, they said it was owned by a Texas woman named Angelita Browne, a bill collector from Houston.
Authorities said Browne, now 56, received the money in a BBVA account, then transferred $16,660 the same day to a Wells Fargo account of hers.
According to deputies, “numerous wire transfers of high value are frequently transferred” into the account; in a two month span, they found that more than $407,000 had been wired into the BBVA account and later transferred to Browne’s Wells Fargo account.
Browne is accused of turning the $16,660, less a $30 wire transfer fee, into Bitcoin.
In an interview with an IRS special agent, Browne said she had been befriended by a man on an online dating website who works on an oil rig and said he “organized with Browne to have money wired to her account as part of his business dealings,” according to the warrant.
Browne told investigators that she would transfer the funds via a cryptocurrency website and get a 5% cut, the warrant states.
“She would receive money anywhere from to two times a week to once a month, sometimes via FedEx and UPS,” the MCSO investigator wrote. “In total, Browne estimates she received around $100,000.”
She “estimated she sent around $100 of her own money to (the man) by sending pictures of gift cards she purchased,” the investigator continued.
Deputies arrested Browne Wednesday on a grand theft charge and booked her into the county jail in Key West, where she was being held on a $50,000 bond as of Thursday afternoon.
The Federal Trade Commission provided tips on its website on how to avoid a scam.