In 2011, Vivien contacted private investigator Julia Robson about a man that had conned her out of tens of thousands of dollars. They had met online via a dating website, and while Vivien was originally enamored by the man, the relationship quickly turned abusive – both physically and emotionally.
Had Julia known the tangled web of deceit and years of investigation that were to follow, she’d maybe have turned Vivien down. But Vivien wanted her life back, and Julia agreed to help her, which begins her hunt in “Chasing Charlie.”
“Chasing Charlie” is a Fremantle Australia podcast that follows Julia’s 7-year-long manhunt for this unscrupulous Charlie. Over the course of seven episodes, we hear about the long trail of brutalized and bankrupt women Charlie left in his wake. What started out with an investigation into Vivien’s experience spanned countries and continents, until Julia finally comes face-to-face with the man himself. Episodes of “Chasing Charlie” are just 35 minutes long.
At the top of the podcast, Julia tells us that her job as a modern-day private investigator mainly involves using open-source intelligence and information available online to try to solve cases. It’s helped her bust Nigerian crime gangs and find missing persons. But most of her work comes from people who have fallen for online catfishing, conning people out of both time and money.
That’s what she thought Vivien’s case was. Before she came in contact with Charlie, Vivien was a happily divorced woman who was loving the single life. She loved her job, her friends, she experimented in bed, and loved all of the time she had to herself. She was experimenting with online dating as well, just testing the waters and seeing if there might be anyone out there for her.
That’s when Charlie swooped in. They matched on a dating site, and Vivien was initially very curious. He was rich, well-traveled, and extraordinarily forthright about his feelings toward Vivien. Most importantly, he played the woe-is-me card like a professional. He told her that women only wanted him for his money and couldn’t see the real him through his millionaire status.
While Vivien found this strange at first (because who actually writes on their dating profile that they’re a millionaire and then complains about people being attracted to them for their money?), she was eventually swayed. Vivien herself describes what it was like to fall deeper and deeper into Charlie’s clutches, until she was totally alone.
Throughout this, Julia explains how abusers manipulate their victims and isolate them from friends and family. She tells us how everything Charlie did was textbook, making Vivien totally reliant on his attention and validation.
Despite Vivien being no schmuck when it came to online dating, following all the rules of never meeting in private and not believing everything you’re seeing, Charlie still managed to entangle her in his disturbing crimes.
After just three weeks of talking, the two met for the first time at Vivien’s house. Charlie had told her that he was into BDSM and would like to integrate that into their sexual relationship. Vivien had already been experimenting in bed and agreed, but what Charlie did went way over the line.
After their first meeting, Vivien’s life continued to orbit his despite his brutal beatings. He told her that if she were just to invest with him, he would make her rich. So invest she did.
He told her that he intended to spend half of every year in France at his house there and that she was to accompany him. Charlie had promised her a relationship, financial freedom, and an exciting life, but ultimately conned her out of everything, including $70,000.
She managed to free herself from his grasp after two months, which is when she went to Julia. She recounted this tale to Julia, saying that she doesn’t even think that Charlie is his real name. Well, Julia was confident that Charlie wasn’t his real name, and as she began digging deeper, she found that this con went far beyond Vivien.
For the rest of “Chasing Charlie,” Julia hunts down this man who beats women under the guise of BDSM, bankrupts them, and leaves them for his next victim before they even know what hit them.