Thief Stole More Than Hearts on JDate

By Sara Liss

Published May 14, 2004, issue of May 14, 2004.
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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — An Orlando man who used the Jewish Internet dating service JDate to lure women into dating him was arrested in Broward County last week with bail set at $21,000.

Police charged Ivan Urquiza, 34, with grand theft, attempting to use another person’s identity without consent, and intimidating or threatening a witness or informant. According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Urquiza swindled at least 15 women, stealing credit card information, personal checks, a car, and identity information.

Though Urquiza is not Jewish, he told police he used the famous online dating service to attract Jewish women because he thought they would have more money than non-Jewish women.

JDate has been criticized in some traditionalist circles for not attempting to restrict its site to Jews.

Gail Laguna, a JDate spokesperson, said the online dating service is unable to monitor the activities of its users once they are offline.

“We don’t do background checks,” Laguna told the Forward during a phone interview from the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles. “Anybody can join the site; we don’t screen people. If there is nudity in the photos, or foul language and harassing e-mails, then we remove them from the site.”

Laguna explained that dating has its perils, no matter what the venue. “We don’t chaperone dates. We don’t monitor what happens. People can lie about themselves if you meet them at a bar,” Laguna said. “Whether you meet online or offline, bringing someone into your house is a risk.”

The JDate site does offer “dating safety” and “help and advice” options to help users safeguarde against “Internet Casanovas” — the term authorities are using to describe Urquiza and his ilk. Laguna said JDate is limited in its ability to help its estimated 700,000 users. In bold print, the site cautions: “Safety-wise, meeting on the Net is inherently similar to meeting offline.”

So far, the police have been able to confirm that Urquiza met up with one of his victims on JDate — Shari Silkoff, an interior designer from Weston, Fla. Silkoff led the police to Urquiza when she filed a report after noticing that someone had been using her credit cards. She had met Urquiza through JDate, and they went on a few dates before she invited him home. Soon after that, she noticed $2,500 worth of unauthorized charges on her MasterCard. According to detectives, Urquiza stole Silkoff’s credit cards, credit card statements and information regarding her identity. Then, over the phone, Urquiza changed her personal information and created a new PIN number for her account. Working with police, Silkoff lured Urquiza on a date May 3, and police promptly arrested him. The car he was driving was stolen, and inside it police found other women’s checks and credit cards.

The Miami Herald reported that Urquiza, a published poet, has a criminal record dating back to 1989, when he was arrested in a hit-and-run case in Miami. He also was arrested twice in 2003 on charges of disorderly intoxication and giving a false ID to an officer, as well as on charges of theft and resisting an officer. According to authorities, Urquiza has used several aliases while perpetrating his scams, including Vize Dumais, Vize Mariales, Zoran Rojas, Loren Rojas and Vincente Urquiza.

The investigation is ongoing, and authorities expect more women to come forward.

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