HOUSTON, Texas -- Even with Valentine's Day approaching, some romances, especially those involving a world-famous pop star, may not always be as they appear.
Case in point, a Houston man appeared in court overnight accused of posing as recording artist Bruno Mars on Instagram to strike up a romance with a woman and coax her out of $100,000.
Chinwendu Azuonwu was charged with third-degree felony money laundering last month but was taken into custody this week.
According to his charging documents, Azuonwu is connected to a scheme that happened between September and October 2018 involving a 63-year-old north Texas woman who told police she created an Instagram profile in search of companionship.
She told investigators a person pretending to be Bruno Mars reached out to her and made her believe that he was interested in pursuing a meaningful relationship.
Documents state the woman fell in love with the Mars account and at the time, she believed him to be the real singer because he had sent her multiple texts and photos of the artist while he was on tour. She also told investigators that he wanted to quit the tour to be with her.
The Mars account then began asking the woman for money. According to investigators, she was asked to make out a $10,000 check to a "friend of the band" for "tour expenses," and then, two days later, draw out more funds, this time amounting to $90,000.
Each amount was deposited in separate accounts, which were each held by Azuonwu and an alleged accomplice, Basil Amadi, according to the document.
After warrants were executed on the accounts, investigators found a $90,000 deposit in Azuonwu's account, which was later found to be withdrawn down to a zero balance.
Investigators then separately interviewed Azuonwu and Amadi. In the document, Amadi said he knew Azuonwu, but Azuonwu claimed not knowing Amadi or the reason for the $90,000 withdrawal.
Both men were charged with money laundering, though Amadi's arrest record in the case was not immediately stated.
In Harris County Probable Cause Court, Azuonwu's bail was set at $30,000.
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