Joseph Serian was used to the duck-face pout of the young twenty-something girls on Match.com. They were half his age.
When he messaged them -- and he rarely did -- they never replied. After all, he was a 65-year-old optometrist who moved to West Palm Beach in the mid-80s after six of his bargain contact lens delivery companies went bankrupt in Missouri and Ohio. He had separated from his wife of 21 years (with whom he has two daughters) in 2008. He had been on a few coffee dates with middle-aged women since then, but says the women doted too much on their grandchildren.
Then there was Ania Sobura. According to her profile she was 25, new to the area, and looking to meet new people. There was a black and white photo of her smiling, her index finger seductively hanging from her lower lip. In another shot, she was walking along a beach barefoot and in a short dress with her wavy light brown hair falling around her shoulders. After clicking through her online album, the single doctor sent her a long flirty email. Two months later he would regret doing so.
According to a January 4 police report, $506 worth of cash was taken without his permission from his Bank of America debit card. Thirty dollars worth of Haagen Dazs ice cream was also charged along with $80 from a 7-Eleven. "Suspect: Anna Sobura (w/f 06/27/88) currently in U.S. on a tourist visa from Poland," the report states.
What the report doesn't include though is Serian's description of his tumultuous relationship with the young Polish traveler. He claims he met her on Match.com, and spent a weekend with her in his luxury West Palm Beach condo making love, drinking Polish vodka, and swimming in his complex's lagoon-shaped pool. He even introduced her to his daughter at the Blue Martini, even though he was slightly embarrassed they were the same age.
Two weeks later, the doctor says he dropped her off at the airport. Apparently she had been fired and her worker's visa rescinded. He claims she had missed her original flight more than a week before, and he begged her former boss to pay the $150 rescheduling fee. "I was more scared for her deportation than she was," Serian remembers. "She would always smile at me and say we could get married."
While Sobura was back home in Poland, Serian explains, they kept in touch through emails. But just six weeks after she left, she texted Serian on Viber (an app that facilitates international communication through the Internet) and asked her to pick him up from Miami International Airport the following day. "I've got a beautiful New Year's present for you. I'm coming tomorrow," the text to Serian said.
Serian says that Sobura told him she came back after a friend had to cancel a trip to Miami because of work at the last minute. But Serian was dubious. He had a lot of questions that he says she answered indirectly. But Serian remembers spending a romantic New Year's eve on his balcony watching the City Place fireworks.
The following day, on January 2, one of Sobura's friends came to Serian's apartment. He claims it was only meant to be for one night. But after missing a train the next day, the Polish friends spent the weekend eating the food out of his fridge and littering his condo with empty bottles of Sobieski, Serian says.
But it was when Serian set up Sobura's friend with his closest friend, Bob, who was also in his 60s, that the real problems started. "Ania was so jealous she kept saying that we had to go downstairs to join them but I told her you can't butt in on someone else's date," he recalls. She went downstairs, Serian claims, and not only crashed the date but drank vodka on his buddy's tab.
That's when he had enough and kicked the girls out of his apartment. But the girls coaxed their way back in, Serian remembers, to pack their stuff. "One girl packed in the living room and talked to me while the other went in to my room," Serian tells New Times.
It was the following morning, on January 4, when the emotionally rattled doctor walked out the door, that he realized his Bank of America credit card was missing. He says he left his wallet on the desk in his bedroom. Then he remembered Sobura packing in there and called police. "Thank God it was toward the end of the [billing cycle] and I had given my daughter a graduation present," Serian says. "If not, they probably would've taken all of the five grand if they could have."
Serian says he collected his missing credit card from her that afternoon, and that she apologized. Serian didn't accept it, and drove off, but only after telling her, he says, that she was evil and would only see him again in court.
"I don't think it was love," Serian tells New Times drifting off. "Lust maybe but I don't think she ever loved me. I haven't been back on the website, but I wouldn't be surprised if she was."
When Serian went to the bank to be reimbursed for his stolen funds, he claims the bank told him he was out of luck. The money had been removed with the the pass code. He contends he had told it to her.
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