Houston man sentenced to 43 years in federal prison for posing as fake attorney for years, scamming dozens of women

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Dwayne Gardner, 55, has been convicted of posing as a fake attorney, scamming up to 40 women-- stealing thousands of dollars from them and making false promises.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney, William Cowardin said Gardner would first meet these women on dating website 'Plenty of Fish,' seduce them and when he earned their trust, told them he was a licensed attorney that could solve all of their problems-- civil or criminal.

"He would target African American women. He was a pretty prolific conman. He had this whole persona about who he was that he had invented and really had no basis in fact," Cowardin said.

"He'd say things like you're going to get $250,000, I'm just waiting to get the check. I'm going to the bank later today to get the funds and I'll get them to you," Cowardin said.

Gardner's web of lies stretched far and for years, from using a fake last name and even created a make-shift badge that identified him as a US assistant attorney in the Southern district. He even moved in with one victim and used her to fund all of his expenses, including two cars she purchased for him.

"The victim specifically let him move in. He convinced her to purchase him cell phone, laptops, scanner, printers , office equipment  which he then used to run his fraudulent practice," Cowardin said.

Gardner even targeted a cancer patient, who ended up passing away as her family hoped to receive the settlement money he had promised-- for her treatments.

"I can't imagine a victim in a more vulnerable state in more need of actual help and assistance. To use that, to steal from them, is in my mind, extremely egregious," Cowardin said.

Despite red flags like his requests for cash only payments, his victims never caught on. Gardner's fraud only began unraveling when the girlfriend he lived with handed over his laptop and cell phone to Houston Police, after an initial complaint.

Gardner's crimes stretched beyond Harris County lines. He also apparently scammed women in Montgomery County, Louisiana, Florida and Georgia.

"I have no doubt there are many more victims," Cowardin said.

Gardner will now spend the next 43 years in federal prison.



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