(CBS) — It’s called the “Fake Love Scam,” and it’s heartbreaking.
Younger people woo and even marry elderly victims and then strip them of everything they have.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: A Few Rain And Snow Showers To Continue
As 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports, it’s a legal nightmare for victims and their families.
Aloysius Mack, 92, has been diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having dementia. That psychiatrist filed a legal document saying Mack is “partially incapable of making personal and financial decisions.”
Like he did with Sophie Miller.
“I think she was stalking me and she came out of nowhere,” recalls Mack.
They met at a suburban McDonalds.
“She came over and sat across the table from me,” Mack says. “She seemed honest to me at the beginning.”
In the end, the Cook County Public guardian charged that Miller targeted Mack because of his disabilities, in a scam his office calls “The Fake Love Scam.”
“People fake that they’re in love with people,” says Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris. “They marry them and scam them out of their money.”
Last March, Miller brought Mack to Chicago City Hall to get married and then dropped him off alone at his home.
The marriage creates legal hurdles for attorneys now trying to undo it. There is also the financial damage she allegedly orchestrated.READ MORE: City Preparing For Public's Response After Verdict In Derek Chauvin Trial; Gov. Pritzker Activates National Guard
The public guardian’s office alleged in court filings that Miller got Mack to pay $80,000 for a now-shuttered laundromat business. Mack also bought her a $40,000 van and put her on his bank accounts totaling about $335,000. And she got him to change his will so she would inherit Mack’s Schaumburg home valued at $260,000.
“She scammed me,” Mack says. “And the worst thing of all she stole my hard-earned life savings.”
In another case, 79-year old Benita Manalo, who has severe dementia, married her caretaker, Phil Cantillas, who is 28-years her junior. Shortly after the marriage the public guardian charged in a petition that Cantillas “began to funnel thousands of dollars belonging to Manalo to his bank account in the Philippines” and “to friends in the U.S.
Altogether, the Public Guardian charged Cantillas either “spent, wired, mailed or gifted” more than $65,000 of her money.
Cantillas denied any wrongdoing but settled the case by agreeing to have judgment entered against him for the money. He could not be reached for comment.
The public guardian says the so-called “fake love” or “marriage scam” is a growing problem.
“Baby Boomers, as we get older, we’re going to see more of these types of cases,” Harris says. “These things are really serious because they will take all of their money and will leave them sitting in the living room in their underwear … they’ll be gone in the wind.”
Now Mack’s family is trying to pick up the pieces.
“He just did whatever she said. He said he was vulnerable, he said I was a sitting duck and he fell for everything she said,” Mack’s great-niece Nancy Hunter says. “He was so lonely and that’s the bottom line.”
Mack’s great-niece was appointed his guardian this week and a protection order was entered prohibiting Sophie Miller from contacting him. The Public Guardian’s Office was able to get back $40,000 of the $80,000 he paid for the laundromat.
Now attorneys are trying to get the marriage annulled so they can undo all the legal documents Mack signed tying his finances to her. She could not be reached for comment.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In Illinois: State Reports Lowest Average Infection Rate In Two Weeks, But Hospitalizations Still Rising
If you believe a senior is being financially exploited you can contact the state’s elder abuse hotline at 866-800-1409.