California man sentenced to 4 years for defrauding 2 elderly Arizona women in romance scams

Apr 12, 2024, 10:14 AM | Updated: 10:42 am

Split image with a mugshot of Donald Franklin Huegel on the left and a rose on the right. Huegel wa...

Donald Franklin Huegel was sentenced March 26, 2024, to four years in prison for romance scams that targeted Arizona women. (Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry and Pexels Photos)

(Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry and Pexels Photos)

PHOENIX — A California man was recently sentenced to four years in prison for his role in romance scams that targeted two elderly Arizona women, authorities announced Friday.

Donald Franklin Huegel participated in scams that defrauded victims of hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

A Pima County Superior Court judge handed down Huegel’s prison sentence, to be followed by three years of probation, on March 26. A hearing to determine restitution for the victims is pending.

A jury previously found Huegel guilty on charges of theft, fraudulent schemes and artifices, illegally conducting an enterprise and money laundering.

“This sentencing serves as a stark warning to those who prey on individuals through deception and fraud: We will hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Attorney General Kris Mayes said in a press release.

How did romance scams that defrauded Arizona women work?

Prosecutors say Huegel and co-conspirators in Africa funneled money from the victims after using fake online profiles to express romantic interest.

The romance scams went on for two years, according to prosecutors.

One victim was wooed by somebody using a profile with the name “Chad Callahan.” After she resisted requests by “Callahan” to send money, other conspirators got involved. They told her that her identity had been placed on the dark web and asked for money to get it removed.

She ended up sending a total of $90,000 to four different accounts, prosecutors said. She mailed Huegel another $24,000 in a money order after her ability to make electronic transfers was stopped.

The other Arizona victim was conned through a profile with the name “Michael Williams” and ended up sending more than $367,000 to Huegel.

Tips to avoid falling for fraud schemes

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office offers the following tips to avoid falling prey to romance scams: verify information, be skeptical, secure personal information, consult trusted individuals and report suspicious activities.

Anybody who believes they may have been the victim of fraud can file a report online or call 602-542-8888 to request a complaint form.

“No Arizonan deserves to be manipulated emotionally and defrauded of their hard-earned money – especially elderly Arizonans,” Mayes said.

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California man sentenced to 4 years for defrauding 2 elderly Arizona women in romance scams