DENVER
11/09/2011 12:20 pm ET Updated Jan 09, 2012

Online Dating Scam Leaves Widow Esther Ortiz-Rodeghero Heartbroken, Foreclosed, Bankrupt

A woman looking for love online instead lost her life savings after falling for an internet scammer on a seniors' dating site.

Esther Ortiz-Rodeghero of Castle Rock, Colorado, lost her husband in 2010 after he died of pancreatic cancer. After his passing, Ortiz-Rodeghero tells 7News, "I was grieving, and I was lonely, and I wanted someone to share my life with." She says a therapist advised her to go online to meet new people.

She soon discovered a dating website called SeniorPeopleMeet.com, where the 55-year-old financial analyst encountered "Wayne Jackson," a man who presented himself as an Army major general who had lost his wife in a car accident. A picture of "Wayne" provided by Ortiz-Rodeghero depicts a handsome black-haired man in army fatigues, smiling at the camera.

According to ABC, the man claimed to be stationed in Iraq but would be retiring to the United States soon. The two emailed nearly every day. A month later, he requested she send him $800, claiming his bank account had been frozen and, due to his station in Iraq, wouldn't be able to sort it out with the bank in person.

Ortiz-Rodeghero says he showed her bank statements, and began asking for money on a more regular basis. She complied, thinking she'd helped "Wayne" start a business they would both one day run together, writes the NY Daily News. She emptied her personal savings, 401k, and her husband's life insurance, then proceeded to take out loans -- about $500,000 in all.

When she sent "Wayne" money for a plane ticket and he never showed, Ortiz-Rodeghero understood she'd been scammed. In addition to her emotional losses, the Daily Mail reports she recently lost her job of 17 years, her house is in foreclosure, and she has declared bankruptcy.

SeniorPeopleMeet.com, the website where Ortiz-Rodeghero met "Wayne," warns users to never send money to someone you meet online, especially by wire transfer.

The U.S. Army also has issued a warning about online dating profiles from persons claiming to be serving abroad.