Ontario man bilked of $150,000 in email scam

A southern Ontario man says he now owes his friends and family $150,000 after international email scam artists bilked him of the funds by convincing him he was about to inherit a fortune.

22-year-old strung along with promises of $12.8M inheritance

A southern Ontario man says he now owes his friends and family $150,000 after international email scam artists bilked him of the funds by convincing him he was about to inherit a fortune.

John Rempel, who is unemployed, lives with his Mennonite parents in a simple wartime home in Leamington, about 50 kilometres southeast of Windsor.

Rempel told CBC News the scheme started in 2007, when he opened an email and thought he was set for life.

The email told the 22-year-old a distant relative had died in a bomb attack in London, England, and left behind $12.8 million.

He said the email was from someone claiming to be an attorney named Matthew Spencer, who said he represented the relative and was looking for someone to claim the fortune. 

Spencer was a world away, but convinced Rempel they shared a faith in God, he said. 

"He always said, 'God bless you,'" Rempel said.

"Every Sunday he was in church. All that stuff made me believe it, right?"

So when Rempel was told he needed to pay fees for documents, he did.

"At first it was a little bit, some fees about $2,500, and I thought that was it," he said.

"After that … it never stopped. They were like, 'Just this bit yet and then it's going to happen.'"

When he was told he needed to fly to England to meet some men personally and pay more fees, he did.

"I met them behind the motel, I handed them over $10,000 in cash," he said. "I was happy. I was like, 'Oh wow, this is real, because I met them and everything.'"

When the emails asked for more money, he borrowed it from his parents, his family and his friends.

Then two weeks ago, Rempel waited at a New York airport for the men and his money to arrive, but they never came. He then contacted the police.

"This is a bunch of money," he said. "It's like a mortgage, a big house mortgage people work for 25 years."

Tracing scam artists 'almost impossible': police

Leamington police Const. Kevin O'Neil said there's not much investigators can do.

"There's no doubt that they're probably not even using proper names, so to try to track these people down would be almost impossible," O'Neil told CBC News.

So now Rempel finds himself having to pay everyone back.

"Got them broke, got myself broke, got my family broke, and I can't believe how those kind of people, how they can do that to people," he said.

In spite of everything, Rempel said his faith in God is strong and he still believes anything is possible — even a way out of this debt.