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American Scammer Gets 5 Years! - June 24, 2004

A San Bernardino County man was sentenced to five years in federal prison yesterday for cheating men out of more than $1 million in a Russian bride scam.

The sentence was imposed from an April plea bargain in which Robert McCoy, 40, of Rancho Cucamonga admitted defrauding more than 250 men and agreed to pay back his victims $737,521. Prosecutors dropped other charges.

Investigators positively identified 352 victims, but there may be more, said San Diego-based federal prosecutor Richard Cheng.

Anna Grountovaia, 32, McCoy's wife and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter, was sentenced to three years probation after having served 11 months in jail.

Grountovaia, a Russian who met McCoy through the Internet before moving into his home, said she posed as a prospective bride in telephone calls with some of the victims, including several San Diego men. She pleaded guilty to fraud and may be deported.

She met him after the scam was already under way and didn't play a big part in the scam, filling in when he needed a woman with a Russian accent, her lawyer said.

Most of the victims spoke with women in Russia, lawyer Timothy Scott said in court papers.

McCoy is a drug-addicted felon who sports gang tattoos and has earlier convictions on assault, kidnapping and weapons charges, according to court papers.

In court filings, prosecutor Cheng detailed the scheme this way:

McCoy met his victims through personal ads he placed or answered on Web sites including America Online and

In each case, he wrote e-mails posing as a Russian woman seeking love and sent pictures of a pretty model.

Eventually, a visit would be arranged, and the victim was told a Russian dating service needed about $1,800 to pay for a visa and plane tickets.

On the day the victim was expecting the woman to arrive, McCoy would write as an official from the fictitious dating service and said there was a problem: A new regulation required the woman to carry $1,500 cash to enter the United States.

The service would lend her $500, but the victim needed to wire an additional $1,000.

The men learned they were taken days later, when their e-mails were ignored or bounced back because the accounts were closed.

The FBI began investigating the scam after a Baltimore man told a London newspaper about the scheme.

McCoy regrets what he did and plans to use his prison time to get off drugs, said his lawyer, Arthur Greenspan, who blamed the drug addiction as a big reason for McCoy's behavior.

A Web site on Russian scams tells prospective suitors to beware any woman who asks for money after an online meeting.

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