A New Jersey man has been charged with conspiracy for his role in an alleged money-wiring scheme that used online dating sites to defraud more than 30 victims of millions of dollars.
Rubbin Sarpong, 35, of Millville, was arrested Wednesday and charged with one federal count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Sarpong and his conspirators, several of whom live in Ghana, allegedly participated in an online romance scheme between Jan. 2016 and Sept. 2019, through which they defrauded victims in New Jersey and elsewhere, prosecutors said.
The conspirators set up profiles on various dating websites, using fictitious or stolen identities to pose as U.S. military personnel stationed overseas, according to documents filed in the case and statements made in court.
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After establishing virtual romantic relationships with victims on the online dating platforms and via email, the conspirators allegedly asked them for money, often under the guise of needing to pay to ship gold bars to the U.S.
Sarpong and the conspirators most often claimed to be military personnel stationed in Syria who received, recovered or were awarded gold bars, prosecutors said.
The conspirators told the alleged victims their money would be returned once the gold bars were received in the U.S., court documents show.
Federal agents said 30-plus victims lost more than $2.1 million. Sarpong allegedly received $823,386 in victim funds into bank accounts that he owned or controlled.
One of the alleged victims took her own life in June 2018 after wiring more than $93,000 to two domestic bank accounts, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.
Victims wired money to bank accounts held by Sarpong and others at financial institutions in the U.S., prosecutors said, and occasionally sent money to the conspirators by mailing personal or cashier’s checks, or through services such as Western Union and MoneyGram.
Federal agents said Sarpong made cash withdrawals from the associated bank accounts and wired money to other domestic accounts and to conspirators in Ghana.
Sarpong posted photographs of himself on social media posing with large amounts of money, high-end cars and expensive jewelry, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Sarpong faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Janelle Griffith is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.