Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Lonely hearts matchmaker has date with LA fraud police

Los Angeles - For years unwanted, lonely and loveless Americans sought out Helena Amram, paying her up to $50,000 (£30,000) in the hope of finally blazing a path to the altar, writes Phil Reeves. Now the tables are turned. Ms Amram is the wanted one - over the small matter of nearly $4m.

The 45-year-old matchmaker is under investigation on both coasts for allegedly leaving behind scores of unpaid refunds and a crowd of disappointed would-be lovers when she left the United States for Tel Aviv, Israel.

During the few years that she had a lavish office on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, decked with photographs of her hobnobbing with stars, she built a reputation for being fussy about clients, pitching her services to successful professionals whose classy style of living was too busy to find romance.

But some are far from happy. A university teacher has reportedly alleged she paid $15,000 to meet well-educated Jewish men in their fifties. Her first date, a man in his seventies, reportedly told dirty jokes and announced that he was simply "shopping around".

Then came a salesman whotried to get her to buy a cemetery plot.

Another hopeful spent $1,000 on new clothes after being promised "wealthy men". All she got was a cup of coffee with a film director, an evening at a county fair with a musician, and a man who refused to drive across town to meet her.

Ms Amram, who claims to have made 7,000 marriages, has published a book called Have I Got a Date for You. These days New York authorities seem to be echoing the sentiment, wanting to talk about her failure to pay almost $4m in refunds, as ordered by a judge.

And in LA, detectives allege she took clients money and left them stranded - as loveless as ever.