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25 Feb

As soon as Elrod would exit First Community with a bundle of and 0 bills in her purse, she’d hang a right and walk across the parking lot to Ridgeview Plaza, a vast and featureless shopping mall surrounded by scraggly woods.

Sometimes, if her phone bill was due or her refrigerator was barren, she kept a few dollars for herself.

But more often than not, she ended the day no richer than she’d started.

She scraped together just enough to rent a 676-square-foot garage apartment that she shared with a roommate, a gangly buffet cook a dozen years her junior.

On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Elrod opened a checking account at a First Community Bank branch located just across the state line in the twin town of Bluefield, Virginia.

She would pass by the drive-through tobacco outlet, the Dollar Tree, and Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders en route to the mall’s centerpiece, a typically gargantuan Walmart.

There she’d head straight for the store’s Money Center counter, where she used Money Gram to transmit usually somewhere between

She would pass by the drive-through tobacco outlet, the Dollar Tree, and Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders en route to the mall’s centerpiece, a typically gargantuan Walmart.There she’d head straight for the store’s Money Center counter, where she used Money Gram to transmit usually somewhere between $1,500 and $1,800 to a man she knew as Sinclair.The boy wrote her bubbly emails about his closest school chum and his plans for Senior Day.He also expressed a fervent desire to visit her in the US and perhaps even live with her full-time—a dream come true for Elrod, who lamented that she’d never had kids of her own.His name was Duke Gregor.“How beautiful is your picture Audrey,” the message read.“My name is Duke, I am from Aberdeen do you know where? I have a son named Kevin and by the Grace of God I will meet that someone again.”The typical Facebook user would likely recognize such a note as bait, but Elrod was in a place in her life that made her vulnerable to such flattery.The 45-year-old divorcée and junior-college dropout now lived in Bluefield, West Virginia, a fading town near the Appalachian coalfields where she’d been raised.

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She would pass by the drive-through tobacco outlet, the Dollar Tree, and Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders en route to the mall’s centerpiece, a typically gargantuan Walmart.

There she’d head straight for the store’s Money Center counter, where she used Money Gram to transmit usually somewhere between $1,500 and $1,800 to a man she knew as Sinclair.

The boy wrote her bubbly emails about his closest school chum and his plans for Senior Day.

,500 and

She would pass by the drive-through tobacco outlet, the Dollar Tree, and Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders en route to the mall’s centerpiece, a typically gargantuan Walmart.There she’d head straight for the store’s Money Center counter, where she used Money Gram to transmit usually somewhere between $1,500 and $1,800 to a man she knew as Sinclair.The boy wrote her bubbly emails about his closest school chum and his plans for Senior Day.He also expressed a fervent desire to visit her in the US and perhaps even live with her full-time—a dream come true for Elrod, who lamented that she’d never had kids of her own.His name was Duke Gregor.“How beautiful is your picture Audrey,” the message read.“My name is Duke, I am from Aberdeen do you know where? I have a son named Kevin and by the Grace of God I will meet that someone again.”The typical Facebook user would likely recognize such a note as bait, but Elrod was in a place in her life that made her vulnerable to such flattery.The 45-year-old divorcée and junior-college dropout now lived in Bluefield, West Virginia, a fading town near the Appalachian coalfields where she’d been raised.

||

She would pass by the drive-through tobacco outlet, the Dollar Tree, and Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders en route to the mall’s centerpiece, a typically gargantuan Walmart.

There she’d head straight for the store’s Money Center counter, where she used Money Gram to transmit usually somewhere between $1,500 and $1,800 to a man she knew as Sinclair.

The boy wrote her bubbly emails about his closest school chum and his plans for Senior Day.

,800 to a man she knew as Sinclair.

The boy wrote her bubbly emails about his closest school chum and his plans for Senior Day.