Conned Australian fights back, with a president's help - January
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the arrest of
two alleged marriage agency fraudsters after a Sydney man
wrote to him, saying he had been conned by a sexy young Russian
brunette offering marriage over the internet.
Terry McCarthy, from Epping, was so outraged after allegedly
being ripped off that he wrote directly to Mr Putin, declaring
it was a matter of "Russian honour" that she be
brought to justice.
So touched was the Kremlin leader by the carefully crafted
letter, he ordered police to track down the criminals, regardless
of time or cost.
Investigations later revealed that the woman, part of a gang
run by her Russian husband, had allegedly extracted $US1.5
million ($2 million) from as many as 1500 foreign men.
Not only have the couple since been caught, they face between
five and 10 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Moscow police sources have confirmed that, on the basis of
Mr McCarthy's letter, Mr Putin personally ordered them to
find the woman and her associates.
A spokesman said: "Had it not been for Mr McCarthy contacting
the President, there is no doubt they would have ripped off
many more foreign lonely heart men who are blinded by sexy
When Mr McCarthy, 48, learned of his letter's impact, he
said: "I can't believe it. When I wrote that letter,
there was no way I ever imagined it would actually arrive
on the President's desk . . . or that he would see it.
"I didn't do what I did for any glory. I wrote a lot
of letters to a lot of people . . . it was a way of getting
what had happened off my chest."
In 2000, Mr McCarthy searched internet photos and profiles
for a possible Russian love match. A young, seductive brunette
responded. They exchanged letters and, at her request, he
sent cash so she could book a romantic trip to Australia to
But she allegedly kept the money and he never heard from
The brains behind the apparent scam was identified as Yuri
Lazarev, 34, a photographer who took pictures of his wife,
Anna, and other local women and posted them on the internet.
Anna went by the fake name of Alfia Magdeeva, and she was
the one Mr McCarthy fell for.
A police officer close to the investigation revealed that
in most cases "Alfia" allegedly snared victims by
posing as a virgin, who wanted to wait until she had met the
The other women Lazarev had taken pictures of "had no
idea they were being offered around the world as marriage
partners on the internet", he said.
"Nor did they know Lazarev and his wife were writing
back to love-struck foreigners asking for money, in their
But what the alleged scam artists failed to account for was
Mr McCarthy's determination to pursue the matter as far up
the Russian hierarchy as he could.
In his letter, he told Mr Putin: "I recently had $US650
stolen from me by an immoral cunning Russian woman, Alfia
Magdeeva, who misrepresented herself on the internet.
"I don't ever expect to see my money again, but I would
be grateful if you could make sure she declared this money
as income (which I doubt) and so paid tax on it.
"I would much rather see my money going to the Russian
Government to help the Russian people, than to criminals on
the internet who would happily bring discredit on their country
for personal gain.
"I have always admired the Russian people but this incident
sours that feeling," the Australian's letter added.
The only indication something was being done at an official
level came in 2002 when Australian Federal Police contacted
Mr McCarthy and interviewed him on behalf of Moscow investigators.
In September, Yuri and Anna Lazarev were finally captured
in Chelyabinsk, a bleak city in the Russian Ural Mountains.
Olga Pfefer, of Chelyabinsk police, said that of the 1500
foreign men allegedly cheated out of money by the gang between
2000 and 2002 they had found detailed biographical information
on about 70.
But she added: "Mr McCarthy was one of only 10 who provided
police with full details so we could conduct the case against
A spokesman for Mr Putin's office said: "The complaint
from Australia to the President was regarded as serious. It
was passed on to the Russian Interior Ministry for the police
to follow up in the correct way."
Mr McCarthy said he did not want to be perceived as "the
wronged naive loser who struck back" and neither did
he want to see all Russian women on the internet "unfairly
He said: "There are hundreds of Russian scammers on
the internet but there are hundreds of thousands of Russian
women, along with millions of women from other countries,
with honest intentions and the usual dreams."
Back to NEWS