A 61-year-old Ham Lake man is facing two felony counts of theft by swindle -- and it isn't his first time. Prosecutors say the so-called "sweetheart swindler" is at it again in the metro area.
Kent Meyer is facing one felony count in Washington County and a second in Ramsey County and is accused of taking thousands of dollars from women he met via online dating sites, one in Cottage Grove and another in St. Paul.
If convicted in both cases, Meyer could face a maximum of 25 years in prison and fines of up to $110,000.
Meyer has several felony convictions on similar charges, including the following:
- May 1997: Attempted Theft by Swindle Over $35,000
- August 1997: Four convictions on Sale of Unregistered Securities and Attempted Theft
by Swindle over $2,500
- October 1997: Attempted Theft by Swindle over $2,500
- February 2005: Two convictions on Theft by Swindle Over $35,000
Meyer has served five years in prison for his past convictions, but he is not currently in custody.
COTTAGE GROVE CASE
Cottage Grove police interviewed one victim on March 16 after she reported that a man she had met online and began dating in early 3012 had stolen nearly $3,000 from her after offering to help her buy a television and home stereo system.
The woman told investigators the two spoke online or by phone daily and that Meyer had been to her home about 10 times. On March 7, she gave him a check for $1,250 to get an upgraded entertainment system -- but on March 11, Meyer allegedly told her he would need more money. The victim told police she wrote a second amount for $1,250 and was told that the TV would be delivered the week of March 14.
When no TV arrived, the woman tried to contact Meyer, but he had cut off all communication. On March 18, he called to say he knew she called the police and that he would return her money; however, the victim said she was never reimbursed.
Nearly a month later, the victim told a detective that Meyer often talked about money, asking her about the value of her home and savings. At one point, Meyer told the victim that if she gave him $9,000, he would provide her a new television, stereo, sofa and $50,000.
The victim told Meyer she thought he was joking, but said he claimed he was serious and became angry when she refused to give him the money. A few days later, Meyer asked if she had changed her mind and hung up on her when she refused.
On April 22, a detective from the Cottage Grove Police Department spoke with Meyer at his home. Meyer admitted he had cashed the checks from the victim, but he said he would not return the money to her until she apologized for hanging up on him.
Meyer also allegedly told the investigator that the victim's money was in a safety deposit box and that if any county charged him, "nobody's getting' paid."
ST. PAUL CASE
On April 29, a woman in St. Paul contacted police to say Meyer had swindled her out of more than $200,000 after the two met via zoosk.com, an online dating website, in September 2011.
According to the victim, much of the money had come from life insurance benefits her late husband left her a year and a half before she met Meyer.
After befriending the victim, Meyer offered to help her with investments, but he became angry when she told him she had about $200,000 to invest because he wanted $300,000, according to the criminal complaint.
The woman eventually gave Meyer more than $130,000 for him to invest on her behalf, and in September, she also gave him $9,000 in cash and a cashier's check in the amount of $70,314 for a Lexus Meyer said he needed in conjunction with his investment activities.
In October, the victim gave Meyer an additional $9,000 in cash and two three cashier's checks totaling $113,000.
As time went on, the woman grew suspicious of Meyer, who would routinely call her with updates on how well her investments were doing but did not send her any profits or portions of her investment back.
The victim told police she received a check for $9,000 on Jan. 14, 2012, and a second for $15,396 on Feb. 22, 2012, both of which were written on a closed checking account belonging to Meyer.
Bank records belonging to a woman who is reportedly Meyer's longtime significant other show the victim's checks were deposited directly into her account. There was no indication the money was ever used for investments and instead went to credit card bills and shopping at Sears, Home Depot and Macy's.
Eventually, the victim typed Meyer's name into Google and learned of prior incidents when eh duped women under similar circumstances, earning him the moniker of "sweetheart swindler" from the media.