The boy wrote her bubbly emails about his closest school chum and his plans for Senior Day.
Elrod would spend the next few hours visiting other Bluefield establishments that offer Money Gram or Western Union services: the Advance America payday loan store, the Food City supermarket, the austere cash-for-titles joint located literally under Route 460.
At each stop she’d wire another chunk of money to Sinclair.
Elrod never let this money linger: She always showed up at the bank a few hours after a transfer cleared, to withdraw as much as $9,500 in cash.
She would then return on subsequent days to make additional four-figure withdrawals until the account was nearly empty.
At Walmart, Elrod would head to the Money Center counter, where she'd transmit between $1,500 and $1,800 to a man she knew as Sinclair.
As soon as Elrod would exit First Community with a bundle of and 0 bills in her purse, she’d hang a right and walk across the parking lot to Ridgeview Plaza, a vast and featureless shopping mall surrounded by scraggly woods.She discovered that message in March 2011, 20 months before opening her First Community account, while cleaning out her junk-strewn “Other” mailbox during a respite at a Charlotte mall.The missive caught her eye because of the sender’s handsome profile photo, which showed a middle-aged man with a ruddy face, strong black eyebrows, and a welcoming gaze.She was in the midst of divorcing her husband of 14 years; his legal woes (including arrests for benefits fraud and making a false bomb report) had strained their marriage.Anxious about her future as an older single woman, Elrod lapped up the kind words about her looks—too few men seemed to appreciate her soft chin, wavy hair, and prominent brown eyes.Sometimes, if her phone bill was due or her refrigerator was barren, she kept a few dollars for herself.