A man who allegedly posed as world-renowned singer Bruno Mars to scam a woman out of $100,000 appeared in court this week.
Chinwendu Azuonwu, 39, is claimed to have created a fake Instagram account in the singer’s name and romanced a 63-year-old North Texas woman in order to take advantage of her.
According to court documents, Azuonwu, from Houston, first reached out to the victim via the platform in 2018 and expressed his interest in pursuing a relationship with her.
Identifying as “Bruno man,” it’s alleged he quickly began gaining her trust so he could convince her to send him money later down the line.
She reportedly then fell in love with the man, thinking he was the real Bruno Mars. She told authorities the alleged catfish convinced her of the account’s authenticity by sending her a number of texts and photos from the tour. He is claimed to have told her he wanted to quit the tour so they could be together.
‘Scammer seduced victim so she would part with money’
After gaining her trust, it’s alleged that Azuonwu then asked the victim for $10,000 for a “friend of the band” for “tour expenses”. After she sent the money, he is then claimed to have asked for $90,000 two days later, to which she obliged.
Azuonwu is claimed to have deposited the sums into two separate accounts, one being owned by alleged accomplice Basil Amadi.
Both men have now been charged with money laundering, and Azuonwu’s bail is set at $30,000.
Speaking to Click2Houston.com, Keith Houston, a Harris County Assistant District Attorney with the Cyber Crimes Division said of people involved in similar cases, “They will spend months talking to people online. Sometimes they will even borrow a little bit of money and return it to build up trust. They’re not stupid people, these scammers. They are very much sophisticated con artists.
“What these people do is they will recruit people to open up bank accounts. So what you have is, you have the people at the bottom opening the bank accounts, people in the middle that are doing the recruiting and communicating with the hackers and then the hackers.”
Bruno Mars isn’t the only celebrity to have been impersonated
Last year saw Billie Eilish speak out against multiple people impersonating her and being rude to fans for the purpose of making YouTube videos.
Speaking on her Instagram story, the Bad Guy singer was quick to address the danger copycats were putting themselves in.
“Please stop doing this s**t. It is not safe for you and it is mean to people who don’t know any better… you make me look bad,” she wrote.
Eilish was also less than impressed with one impersonator’s fashion choice.
It later emerged that the fashion crime was actually part of a video shoot — after photographer Jordan Matter had hired an acrobat to impersonate Billie.
“I gathered a crowd and had an acrobat pretending to be Billie do a huge cheer flip, which revealed it was not Billie,” Matter spoke on Instagram. “I had absolutely no intention of disrespecting Billie. I’m a big fan, like everyone else.”