He portrayed himself as a diamond broker and had nice cars and boats. He charmed women he met online into personal relationships, took them to dinners and talked about marriage.
But James Bruce Rice, 52, wasn't really after love. Detectives say the blond-hair, blue-eyed Redondo Beach man with several aliases allegedly bilked at least eight women out of about $300,000 they believed he was investing in his business ventures.
"He was telling people he had a different type of a lifestyle, convincing women through online dating sites into giving him money to pay for his lifestyle and, in some cases, pay for him to travel out of the state to as far away as Alaska and New York City and Hawaii," sheriff's Detective Billy Lovell said.
Sheriff's detectives working with Manhattan Beach police suspect Rice committed more than the eight crimes that have been reported. They believe there are more middle-age women betrayed by Rice's ruse, falling in love with him only to lose a life savings or their children's college fund.
Victims, so far, live in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Hacienda Heights and Beverly Hills. Two victims who lived in Alaska and Alabama met Rice on beaches in Hawaii, Lovell said.
At 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, Rice looked like a heavier version of actor Gary Busey, Lovell said, but he carried on more like Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Frank Abagnale, in "Catch Me If You Can," a true-crime movie about a man who conned millions of dollars from victims while posing as a pilot, doctor and lawyer.
"He's a very outgoing person, a really good talker," Lovell said.
Women, mostly middle-age, vulnerable and seeking a relationship, fell for him. He claimed to be a diamond broker who traveled around the country to close deals. He had boats, nice cars and lived in high-priced hotels, including in Beverly Hills.
"He'd befriend them, get close to them and gain their confidence," Lovell said.
Rice sometimes used love to get the women to hand over cash, telling his girlfriends the money would be invested and could be used later to provide income when they were married.
"He tugged at their heartstrings," Lovell said. "He would disappear for months at a time. Then there would be email communications to try to string them along and he would make his way back, take them to a nice dinner and say, `I missed you. I missed you.' As long as the money was coming, he would tend to stick around."
But, at some point, he'd vanish for good. In reality, Rice had not held a job for years and became a methamphetamine user, which resulted in his July 2012 arrest in Manhattan Beach in another fraud case. Detectives said he used several names, including James Turner, Jimmy Turner and Jimmi Turner.
In September, he pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft of personal property and was sentenced to 16 months in jail.
The investigation, however, grew. Investigators have received reports of thefts allegedly involving Rice since 2009, Lovell said.
He also is facing another investigation, Lovell said, because "we are all required to pay taxes."
Records show Rice previously served 13 years in prison in Arizona for fraud, police said.
Suspecting there are more victims, police said anyone with information about Rice, or any additional aliases he used, were asked to call Lovell at 562-347-2660 or Manhattan Beach police Detective Mike Allard at 310-802-5125.
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