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Fort Lauderdale Woman Arrested, Charged With Federal Crime For “Romance Fraud” Scheme


On May 15th, 2024, The Miami New Times reported that Cristine Petitfrere was arrested in Fort Lauderdale and charged with several serious federal felony offenses for her role in orchestrating a “romance fraud” scheme. She was taken into custody by authorities. Within this article, our Orlando white collar criminal defense lawyer discusses the charges.

The Allegations: Woman Orchestrated Romance Scam 

Broadly defined, a romance scam is a type of “confidence scam” in which a person poses as an interested and/or actual romantic partner for the purpose of illicitly obtaining money or property. These scams are often done online and they are a form of financial fraud. Alarmingly, there has been a dramatic rise in romance scams over the last several years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has called into one of the fastest growing white collar crimes.

A South Florida woman, Cristine Petitfrere, is now facing federal charges for money laundering and other crimes related to a romance scam. The fraud allegedly occurred between December of 2019 and August of 2023. Ms. Petitfrere allegedly helped transfer funds from U.S. romance scam victims to a co-conspirator in Ghana. She earned significant commissions for doing so. The indictment cites three elderly victims tricked into sending substantial sums to accounts she controlled. In total, Ms. Petitfrere is accused of obtaining more than $150,000 on fraudulent grounds. As with any person accused of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. 

An Overview of the Criminal Charges Filed Against the Defendant 

There is no federal or Florida “romance fraud” statute. Instead, like many types of fraud crimes, these cases are handled under several different criminal statutes. In this case, the defendant from Fort Lauderdale, FL is facing three separate felony federal criminal charges:

  • Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering: The charge alleges that the defendant conspired with others to launder money derived from criminal activities. A conviction on this charge requires proof of coordination/agreement by the defendant to use her bank accounts to transfer the illicit funds and disguise their true origin.
  • Illegal Money Remitting: The defendant is accused of operating an unauthorized money transmitting business, transferring funds without the necessary licenses. The offense involves sending money to international destinations and bypassing required oversight.
  • Engaging in Transactions with Criminal Proceeds: Prosecutors also contend that the defendant knowingly engaged in financial transactions involving proceeds from criminal activities. She is alleged to have received and then forwarded large sums of money—knowing that those funds stemmed from deceptive romance fraud schemes.

Speak to Our Orlando, FL White Collar Criminal Lawyer Today

At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando white collar criminal defense attorney is committed to protecting the rights, freedom, and future of clients. If you or your loved one was arrested and charged with any financial fraud offense, please do not hesitate to contact our team for a confidential consultation. We defend white collar criminal cases all across Central Florida.



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