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Florida woman finds real love with man whose photo was used in catfish plot

A face that once haunted a Florida woman now has her heart.

Nicole Hayden — the victim of a vicious catfishing and extortion plot months ago — found love with the man whose picture was used to lure her into the scam, she told The Post Wednesday.

The twisted love story began when the mom of two from Palm Beach began casually chatting online with a person named Marcus, who sent her a private Instagram message last November.

After several tame exchanges, Hayden, 38, said the handsome suitor suddenly escalated his romantic pitch — telling her they should get married and spend Thanksgiving together in Florida.

“At that point I knew it was some sort of scam,” she said. “We barely knew each other. I just blocked him.”

Nicole Hayden and Alex Cinquini have now finally met after the catfish ordeal.
Nicole Hayden

But Marcus soon surfaced on her Whatsapp account — and threatened to post a photoshopped nude image of her online if she didn’t fork over money.

“When we were still talking, I sent him a picture of myself on the beach,” Hayden explained. “That’s what he was using to make this fake photo.”

The extorter even threatened to harm her children if she didn’t comply.

Hayden said the man demanded $6,000 to not disseminate the image — but she stood firm and rejected his demands.

“I said they could do what they wanted,” she recalled. “I wasn’t going to give them anything.”

Still frightened by the attempted shakedown months later, Hayden said she was startled to see a picture of her tormentor attached to a suggested Instagram contact named Alex Cinquini — only this time, the profile was legitimate.

“I could tell it was real,” she said. “He had a lot of followers and details about his life. I couldn’t believe this was the same person, the same picture.”

Intrigued, Hayden reached out to Cinquini — and was again shocked to learn that he lived an hour nearby in Miami.

Nicole Hayden -- the victim of a vicious catfishing plot months ago -- found love with the man whose picture was used to lure her into the scam.
Nicole Hayden — the victim of a vicious catfishing plot months ago — found love with the man whose picture was used to lure her into the scam.
The next time Hayden saw Cinquini's photos, the profile was legitimate.
The next time Hayden saw Cinquini’s photos, the Instagram profile was legitimate.
alex_theofficer

The pair eventually connected and Cinquini revealed that his picture had become a favorite among scammers.

“He has hundreds of fake profiles attached to his name,” said Hayden, who never wound up reporting her nightmare to police. “It’s crazy.”

The couple have been dating exclusively for several months.
The couple have been dating exclusively for several months.
Nicole Hayden

Hayden and Cinquini decided to meet in person in January and have now been dating exclusively for several months.

“At first I didn’t want to get my hopes up because of where it all stemmed from,” she said. “But the fact that I have this relationship now that is growing romantically is pretty amazing. Especially given what happened before it.”

Hayden, a former nurse who now works in insurance, said Cinquini has given up on eradicating the fraudulent profiles associating with his face.

“He’s been out to dinner and had an angry woman come up to him,” she said. “They complain that he ghosted them, maybe some of them actually paid money to a scammer because of his profile. It’s a danger for him in the real world.”

But with their union holding strong, Hayden said she’s grateful for the surreal online plot twist.

“It’s just beyond ironic,” she said.

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