San Diego women are speaking out about a man who they said preys on the vulnerabilities of single mothers and takes their money.
Four women spoke to NBC 7 about 35-year-old Art Stanley Howe. They claimed he meets women online on websites like Craigslist, Facebook and Plenty of Fish and gets them to bed quickly.
Not long after, they said, Howe convinces them to fund his business. When they don't get their money back and prepare to go to court or authorities, they claimed he threatens to release revealing photos of them online and, at times, to their children.
One woman, who did not want to be identified, said she dated Art Howe for more than a year. She tells NBC 7 he owes here between $16,000 and $20,000.
"When he was coming to meet me for the very first time, he asked 'Do you have a credit card?'" she said.
The woman showed NBC 7 several texts she said were between them. One of them showed her being asked to get a cash-call loan. It read, "Go big. Trust me. I have a plan and the plan involves your credit getting as high as can go."
That woman, who said she has talked to at least 15 other possible victims, told NBC 7 it appearedHowe targets single women who have children.
Debra Cangiamilla said Howe owes her money as well. She met him on Myspace in 2009 and lent him $1,048. She showed NBC 7 a contract that appears to be signed by both Cangiamilla and Howe.
A third woman who did not want to be identified sent NBC 7 a loan agreement that she said Howe broke. It showed she loaned him $41,000, which was supposed to be paid back by March 2013.
This woman went to the San Diego Police Department last October and filed an incident report. NBC 7 confirmed her case is under review.
On the same day NBC 7 reached out to Art Howe's lawyer, that woman said she received a threatening text from an unidentified 682 number.
It read, "We have a lot of pictures and info to share also. You have a lot to loose (sp) doing the news."
The women were told by police these cases are difficult unless there is evidence showing Art Howe never intended to pay them back.
Police said you should definitely file a report if the person threatens you.
This year, Governor Jerry Brown passed a bill banning "revenge porn." The law makes it a misdemeanor to post nude photos of someone else online without their permission, and the person posting the photos or videos must have done so with the intent of causing emotional distress or humiliation. A conviction could result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
A fourth woman who did not date Howe tells NBC 7 he and his friends sexually assaulted her.
"When Art was following me, I thought he was just going to tell me this is the bathroom," she said, "but instead he followed me in there."
She added, "He manipulated me into a situation that was really dangerous, and I felt taken at that time."
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department confirmed a sexual assault investigation is underway, but no charges have been filed.
NBC 7 tried calling Art Howe and was able to speak to him briefly on the phone. NBC 7 ultimately received this e-mailed response:
"Due to the nature of our brief conversation on the phone and due to you telling me that there is an investigation and law enforcement involved, my lawyer has advised me to make no comments or statements and to not be contacted directly as you can contact him."
NBC 7 tried contacting Howe's lawyer multiple times and was told he had no comment.
Howe has faced similar accusations in the past.
NBC 7 found court records showing in 1998 he was convicted of domestic violence.
In 2006, he pleaded guilty to grand theft that involved stealing $400 or more from a San Diego guitar store.
In 2009, Howe was the defendant in a civil harassment case in which the judge granted the plaintiff a temporary restraining order based on allegations he had "Post[ed] hurtful lies on her Myspace page" and sent "text messages to her children."
A permanent restraining order was never granted, and the case was dismissed when both parties did not show up to the next hearing.
Sheriff's investigators called these kinds of allegations possible "Lonely Heart Scams." They said if you meet someone and there is a sudden crisis in the person's life where he/she needs money, that may be a red flag. They advise you to research the person online.
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