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Kirkwood woman helped online scammers steal as much as $1.5M

A "money mule" is someone who fraudulently gets payments on behalf of a scammer and transfers the money to them.
Credit: TeacherPhoto - stock.adobe.com

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — An 81-year-old Kirkwood woman pleaded guilty to identity theft after being accused of acting as a "money mule" for an online romance scammer for more than six years.

Glenda Seim pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to two counts of identity theft in connection with a years-long romance scam.

According to a press release from U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming of the Eastern District of Missouri, a "money mule" is someone who fraudulently gets payments on behalf of a scammer and transfers the money to them.

According to the release, Seim started an online relationship with a man claiming to be a U.S. citizen with business interests in Nigeria. The man would ask her for financial help to pay various fees he said were going to business associates or the Nigerian government. 

In order to do this, Seim started sending him money from her retirement benefits and pension but eventually had to find other ways, according to the release.

It said she started accepting MoneyGram transfers from unknown senders, depositing counterfeit and illegally obtained checks into a bank account she opened and accepting unemployment insurance benefits on behalf of people she didn't know. In addition to forwarding the money to the scammer, Seim kept some for herself.

The release said she continued these types of activities despite warnings from wire transfer agencies as well as local and federal law enforcement officers. The release said one of the checks drawn from a retirement account of a romance scam victim was for $100,000. In all, the fraudulent transactions may have been worth as much as $1.5 million. 

Sentencing in this case was set for Feb. 10, 2022.