Two B.C. women conned by an alleged serial romance scammer say they’re glad to hear of his arrest this week.
On Thursday, York Regional Police (YRP) announced they had arrested Andre Marcel Vautour, 47, of no fixed address, who was allegedly wanted in connection with a fraudulent romance scam investigation in Quebec.
An online search in Quebec’s court system shows that Vautour is slated to appear in Drummondville, Que., on Monday, Oct. 11. He is facing one count, but it’s not known what that charge is.
Read more: OPP search for man behind romance scam
However, Jodi McMullin of West Kelowna and Kym Nicholson of Nelson have questions as to why a warrant for Andre Marcel Vautour wasn’t issued from B.C.
McMullin says she met Vautour through a dating app in January 2018. And a month into their relationship, she says Vautour began asking for money, with very elaborate and detailed reasons for what it was for.
“He showed me nothing but love and affection and I was vulnerable just coming out of a marriage,” said McMullin, stating she lost $45,000. “But he just hones in and figures out what it is that is your vulnerability and just picks up on that.”
In an interview with Global News, YRP Const. Maniva Armstrong said Vautour was picked up in a hotel after police received information on his whereabouts.
“York Regional Police received information from police in Quebec back in September informing us that they had an ongoing investigation regarding romance scams,” said Armstrong.
“And they identified a suspect and there was a warrant for that suspect. And they believed that he was in the York region, in the city of Vaughan.”
Armstrong said YRP’s high-risk offenders unit learned that Vautour was in Vaughan, and that they located and arrested him. He has since been transported to Quebec.
While glad to see Vautour’s arrest in Ontario, two of his victims can’t help but wonder why the B.C. Prosecution Service turned down their concerns after each being conned.
McMullin says she wound up “lending him money to help pay for his employees, Airbnb accommodations, food. He kept a spreadsheet and would update it every night of this is what I owe you.”
Every year, it’s commonplace to see police detachments issue reminders to be on alert for scam artists.
“They often use aliases or fictitious names or characters, especially when they’re luring in or engaging victims in these types of romance scams,” said Armstrong, adding most scams hail from social media or dating apps and that most victims are female.
“It’s not unusual that they make every effort to not want to be located.”
McMullin says Vautour claimed he had money, but that it was tied up in Vietnam, where he worked oil rigs for the past eight years, which is why he needed her financial help.
McMullin also says the day before her trip to Las Vegas, she received a call from Vautour stating he had a cheque for her for $49,751. Little did McMullin know that would be one of the last times she’d hear from him.
“It went dark with him. I was texting him saying, ‘I’m having a great time, can’t wait to see you Tuesday,’ and he just didn’t respond.”
When she came back from the trip, McMullin’s credit cards were being declined.
“I came home, opened up my bank accounts and everything was overdrawn cause once the cheque bounced, it was a butterfly effect — everything else just bounced.”
When the cheque bounced, McMullin realized the relationship had been a scam. And she was forced to pay the bank back, which she’s still in the process of doing.
Armstrong said the scammers prey on emotion, vulnerability, “anything they can do to make a trusting connection with them. And they’re brilliant; they’re creating different ideas and ways to scam victims all of the time.
“Once they’re able to make that connection, that bond with a person, then they’re creating stories.”
Nicholson said she met Vautour, and that he claimed to have lost his wallet. She says she wound up losing $8,000 within a couple of weeks to him.
“So we frantically looked around Niagara Falls,” said Nicholson. “We only met for coffee and to talk for only a couple of days.
“Then he said he lost his money and he doesn’t know how he’s going to get his money. So I put him up in his own hotel room so he could get up to Toronto. So that’s how the money got lent.”
A travel nurse from Ontario who’s currently staying in B.C.’s Interior, Nicholson says she brought her case to police in Niagara Falls and B.C., but says she was told nothing could be done because she voluntarily gave her money to him.
McMullin says she also tried pushing for charges against Vautour, but was denied by Crown counsel.
In a statement to Global News, the BC Prosecution Service says the Crown measures all evidence against a two-part test of whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction, and, if so, whether the public interest requires prosecution.
Meanwhile, Armstrong says, “It’s very important that if you think something is too quick and too fast, use your spidey sense, use your gut feeling. Maybe take a step back.”
The constable said people should never transfer money either through Bitcoin or a wire transfer. In fact, “never give money to someone you don’t know and haven’t met.”
Armstrong continued, saying, “This can happen to anybody. And we do want to encourage the victim to come forward and report these situations to police.
“And what we have learned is that a lot of victims become embarrassed or feel ashamed when the situation has happened, and they don’t want to tell people and they don’t want anyone to know.”
“York Regional Police, and I know all police services across Canada, would want to encourage all victims that have been in situations like this to come forward, so we can investigate and help locate these suspects and bring them before the courts and charge them accordingly.”