The Hampton, Pennsylvania, woman says she was the perfect victim.
Douglass married her teenage sweetheart, Mel Douglass, who went on to become a vice president at Alcoa. The couple was in love and financially secure. But their love story ended when he died in a plane crash.
Douglass was later remarried to a man she met online, but says he cheated on her while she was in the hospital receiving a liver transplant.
They were divorced four years ago, at which time she moved into a new house in Hampton, with no intention to date.
But that all changed when she received a message out of the blue from a man calling himself Keith Bartel.
He contacted Douglass through Facebook and told her she was beautiful.
Conversations on Facebook went to text messaging and then from texting to phone calls.
The two texted all day long, talked on the phone for hours, multiple times per day.
“He’s talking in this Dutch sexy accent that any woman would probably go out of her mind for,” she says.
Nancy felt like it was the start of a wonderful relationship.
Bartel said he was Dutch but living in Tiburon, California. He said he worked for a gold mining company.
Douglass says Bartel sent him pictures of his bank account showing a balance of $2 million.
He promised to buy Douglass a new mansion in Hampton, a red Range Rover, and a large diamond ring.
But more than anything he promised to buy, Douglass loved the companionship and the thought of a handsome, younger man being so kind to her and talking with her every day.
Bartel called Douglass “darling” when he called her in the morning and at night before bed.
Nancy was in love.
That’s why she agreed to send Bartel $200 when he asked her to do so four months into their relationship.
Douglass’ kids called the mining company and asked if a Keith Bartel worked there and they said “yes.”
The kids thought the relationship must be legitimate.
In some sense it really was a relationship.
Douglass was apprehensive about sending him money via Western Union but did so against her better judgment, believing his story that the mining company needed to buy new equipment.
Bartel promised to pay back any money she loaned him three times over.
He said the problem was that his wealth wasn’t liquid so he needed some small loans.
Bartel said he was desperate to finish the project and then move to Hampton so he could be with Douglass and marry her immediately.
Nancy proceeded to send Bartel about 50 more Western Union money transfers totaling nearly $10,000 over the next year.
She would drive to the Rite Aid on Route 8 in Hampton and wire the money.
She says tellers at Rite Aid asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this, and with the charming Bartel on her mind, she confidently said “yes” to the ladies.
There was a small disclaimer on the bottom of the Western Union slip warning to not send money to strangers in other countries.
Douglass now describes a small apprehension when she saw that warning, but she went forward with the transfers anyway.
Bartel explained that he was in the United Kingdom on business and needed the money sent to the mining company headquarters in South Africa.
He said to send the money to someone there who would process the funds.
Nancy still has three Western Union receipts and the recipient is listed as “Omega Nsovo” in South Africa.
She threw away much of the correspondence and receipts after the relationship came crashing down.
Bartel told Douglass one morning that he transferred her $28,000 to her bank account.
He told her to drive to her bank and withdraw $22,000 and that she could use the other $6,000 to buy things at the mall.
Nancy questioned the directive but drove to the PNC Bank on Route 8 anyway.
She walked in brimming with confidence, thinking her lover was finally paying her back and making good on his promises.
But when Douglass asked to withdraw $22,000 from her account, a banking manager pulled her aside and asked to speak with her privately.
“She said this entire thing is fraudulent. You, are being scammed,” says Bartel, recounting the experience.
Douglass agreed to share her story with Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 in the hopes of warning other women and possibly even men.
She left the bank and called Bartel and told him it was all a scam and that she would never talk to him again.
He mailed her flowers and a card and asked her to trust him.
But Nancy was done with Bartel after a year of talking to him every day.
Nancy’s son played her a podcast about romance scams and she finally understood what happened.
She had loved the Dutch accent and charming appearance of her would-be lover.
Douglass says she is embarrassed and calls herself “stupid” for failing to realize what was happening.
She explained why she believes she was so gullible.
“(It was) me wanting so much to have a loving partner like I had with my first husband who was fabulous … me wanting that to the point where I didn’t see the clear red flags,” says Douglass.
Douglass did not file a police report. She was too embarrassed and didn’t think it would go anywhere anyway.
Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 decided to do some digging of our own.
Producer Mary Davies took one of Bartel’s photos from Facebook and went to Google to do a “reverse image search”. She uploaded the photo and clicked “search.”
A match photo popped up and showed a politician.
Next, Davies reverse image searched another of Bartel’s Facebook photos that included a mountain.
The results showed matching images showing a mountain in New Zealand.
Davies then typed “New Zealand politician” into a Google search bar and up popped a photo matching Keith Bartel.
Clicking on that photo brought Davies to a page where the man was listed as “Nathan Guy,” a member of Parliament in New Zealand.
So that means someone in South Africa was using a real mining worker’s real name and using a real New Zealand politician’s real photos to fake love with a woman in suburban Pennsylvania.
We contacted the real Nathan Guy and informed him of the use of his photos.
His press manager responded with an email.
“Hi Beau, thanks for your email. I work as Nathan Guy’s press secretary. Apologies but the Minister won’t be available for an interview. However we are very disappointed that someone has used his photos to create a fake profile. We have reported this to Facebook and hope they will remove this profile as soon as possible. Sadly this kind of scam is becoming more common,” wrote Phil Rennie.
Douglass said the worst part is not the money or the embarrassment, but the fact that she placed her trust in this person and was tricked.
She wants other women to visit romancescam.org and be careful.