And Thursday, US prosecutors accused 80 people ̵
Of these, 17 people have been arrested so far in the United States and federal investigators are trying to track down others in Nigeria and other countries.
"We believe this is one of the greatest cases of its kind in US history," said US Attorney Nick Hannah.
Diamond smuggling plan
The whirlwind of online romance between FC and Garcia took place at a Yahoo email address without phone calls. Garcia told the FC that he was not allowed to use a telephone in Syria, according to federal authorities.
The search for money began after he told her that he had found a bag of diamonds in Syria and needed her help to smuggle it out of a war-torn nation. He said he was hurt and unable to do it himself – and introduced her to associates, who he said would help facilitate the transfer, court documents say. One said he was a diplomat at the Red Cross who could take diamonds sent to the FC, court documents show.
Shortly thereafter, another man claiming to be working for a shipping company asked FC for money to ensure that the package was not checked at customs, the complaint said. Requests for additional money continue to come, with fraudsters each citing various reasons why the package is stuck in customs.
"The FC estimates that she made 35 to 40 payments during the 10 months in which she had contact with Garcia. During this time, the fraudster (s) sent her emails up to 10 to 15 times each day and Garcia asked her to made payments so she continued to pay bills in Turkey, the UK and the US, "a federal criminal complaint says.
Losing money left the FC angry and depressed, authorities said." She began to cry when discussing how which affected her losses, "the criminal complaint states.
17 arrest baths and dozens on the go
Fraud is not limited to romance, Hannah said, which included business schemes in which fraudsters hack electronic company descriptive systems, present themselves as employees and make direct payments
"In some cases, victims were thought to be interacting with US troops deployed overseas when they were actually sending emails to fraudsters," Hannah said. "Some of the victims in this case lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that way."
Of the 80 indicted, federal authorities have arrested 14 people mostly in Los Angeles, the US local prosecutor's office said Thursday. At least three of the defendants were already in custody. The other suspects live in other countries, mainly Nigeria, and investigators have said they will work with the relevant governments to extradite them.
How the fraud works
Investigators detail a tangled fraud tracked to two key suspects who oversee a fraudulent transfer of at least $ 6 million and attempt to steal an extra $ 6 million $ 40 million.
After co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries persuaded victims to send money under false pretenses, the two Nigerian men who lived in southern California coordinated the receipt of the proceeds, the indictment says.
The two men provide bank and bank accounts that receive money from victims and also run an expanded money laundering network, the complaint said.
The two men were arrested on Thursday. All defendants will face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. Some will also face charges of fraud and money laundering.
"Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to become aware of these complex financial schemes to protect themselves or their business from becoming unsuspecting victims," Delacourt said.
Steve Almassi, Stella Chan and Cherry Mosburg of CNN contributed to this report.