“Millionaire seeking a lifetime partner. I’m a successful businessman tired of all the shit and insincerity of women chasing after my money. I’ve been working overseas, I’ve now come back to Australia. I’m looking for a mature woman. We can share our lives together.”
Vivien stopped scrolling. This Craiglist ad was different from the others. Buried among the litany of sexual propositions, it sounded almost like a dare, a challenge: are you the ‘right’ kind of woman? Can you live up to what I need?
He couldn’t be serious, she thought. Surely a millionaire wouldn’t advertise his wealth, especially on online classifieds.
She replied to him, jokingly.
“I can’t even remember what I wrote. But it obviously got his [attention]. He thought, ‘Here’s another sucker.’
“Looking back, he must have thought that.”
What followed is the subject of Chasing Charlie, a new true-crime podcast produced by a female-led team at Fremantle Media and hosted by Melbourne-based private investigator, Julia Robson.
Robson, a former New Zealand police officer, was engaged by Vivien in the dying days of 2011, after Vivien became aware that ‘Charlie’ — the author of the Craiglist ad, whom she ended up dating — had expertly conned her out of almost $70,000 in less than two months.
As Robson dug into the case, it became clear this man had spun a web of deceit and destruction around the world, ensnaring dozens of victims, yet largely escaping the criminal justice system.
“This case was different,” Robson told Mamamia. “Normally, as an investigator, you are just the middle-person person, so you’re instructed by a lawyer or client to find evidence. You get the evidence and then you hand it back, and they will finish the process. But I really took this on and said, ‘You know what? No one’s going to stop this guy unless I do. No matter what, I’m going to make sure that I get some kind of justice.'”
Over the next seven years, she followed his electronic and physical trail, speaking to the women and men he’d left littered along the way. Those interviews form the backbone of the podcast, throwing into sharp relief the Machiavellian tactics ‘Charlie’ used to get what he wanted.
When Vivien met Charlie.
It’s Vivien’s story Robson focuses on in the first three episodes of the series. (At least four more instalments are on the way.) Vivien is single after a 30-year marriage, an empty nester, looking for a new relationship.
We learn that after she replied to that Craiglist ad, its author introduced himself as Charlie, a wealthy New Zealand businessman in Australia to negotiate the purchase of luxury Melbourne apartments. (As Robson later found out, only the New Zealander part was true.)
He spent the next three weeks flooding her with text messages, seducing her with his vision of the future; one of international travel, time spent in the French Riviera where he often worked, and of a partner who is sincere and genuine and challenges him.