The unemployed 41-year-old was living on welfare when he made contact with at least four women through personal ads. All four were Russian immigrants living in the states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, and at least two were widows with children.
“He would talk of love and living together and then asked for what he really wanted,” Karl-Heinz Schmitt from the Würzburg police told The Local. “We suspect he did this with more women across the country than those we already know about and we are asking them to report this to us.”
The Russian-born hustler, based in the Rhein-Hunsrück district of North Rhine-Westphalia, styled himself as a successful businessman, then concocted stories about financial problems that required a loan.
Police believe he got away with hoaxes for at least three years. But they nabbed him on May 19 after he tried to blackmail one of the women for €10,000 with a sex tape of a hotel encounter, telling her that he would reveal it to her children and on the internet.
He has since been held on remand as investigators piece together a trail of evidence that includes his “unscrupulous” demands of the women, who had met him only a few times and were not suspicious of contact made almost exclusively via internet and text messages.
At least one of his victims has reported she has been ruined financially, Schmitt said.
“One woman saw him just twice over three years. He just always had excuses to keep her hanging on,” he added.
The investigation, which could last up to six months, resembles a small-time version of the recent high-profile case of BMW heiress Susanne Klatten. Her former lover Helg Sgarbi, known as the “Swiss gigolo,” was sentenced to six years in prison in March after getting €7 million out of Klatten before she contacted authorities.
He had demanded hundreds of millions to keep videos of his encounters with the married woman secret. She has since been the target of two other similar blackmail attempts.