New Jersey man sentenced to 14 years in online dating program

A New Jersey man has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in an online dating program in which he and others, posing as US service members serving overseas, stole $1.75 million dollars to more than 40 victims over four years, federal prosecutors said.

Rubbin Sarpong, 38, of Millville, pleaded guilty in November to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. In addition to the prison sentence, a federal judge also sentenced Mr. Sarpong on Tuesday to three years of probation and ordered him to pay more than $3 million in restitution to 36 victims.

From January 2016 to September 2019, Mr Sarpong and his co-conspirators, most of whom live in Ghana, created profiles on dating sites including Plenty of Fish, and, often claiming to be American military. members stationed in Syria, federal prosecutors said in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey.

After contacting victims, “courting them with words of love” and initiating long-distance romantic relationships, Mr. Sarpong and his team demanded money, according to an FBI investigator cited in the complaint. Many victims were told that the money would cover the cost of shipping the gold bars they had collected or received in Syria to the United States, and that they would be reimbursed once the gold bars were received. . The victims sent personal or cashier’s checks or used money transfer services to send money to various bank accounts primarily controlled by Mr. Sarpong, prosecutors said. About $454,000 was sent to his co-conspirators in Ghana, the FBI investigator said.

None of Mr Sarpong’s aides, including a US citizen based in New Jersey, have been charged, a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday.

Although he made $1.14 million in taxable income using the scheme from 2016 to 2018, Mr Sarpong did not file a tax return or pay income tax, the office said. from the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey in a statement. He would have been required to pay $387,923, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Mr. Sarpong posted photos on Facebook and Instagram in which he posed with high-end cars, designer clothes, expensive jewelry and large stacks of cash, including $100 bills. In a caption, Mr Sarpong wrote: “Everything I touch first in the morning” should “turn into money”, according to the complaint. At least two others have included the phrase “BloodyMoney”.

In the caption of another photo showing jewelry and a computer, prosecutors said Mr Sarpong bragged about being “blessed” by a Dubai millionaire, adding: “The real recognizes the real.”

A photo from March 2017 shows Mr Sarpong sitting in a car and holding a large stack of cash to his ear “like a cellphone”, prosecutors said. A year later, he posted another photo, this time holding a wad of cash close to his face. Authorities said he withdrew $8,000 from a bank account when the photo was taken, after a victim wired him more than $20,000.

Mr. Sarpong and his accomplices used voice-over-internet protocol email accounts and phone numbers to communicate with the victims, authorities said. Along with money, they also asked victims to send expensive electronic devices to a New Jersey-based co-conspirator, and promised that a computer they had requested would be delivered to a soldier in Syria. .

They made lofty claims about their wealth and used false documents to support their lies, according to the complaint. A co-conspirator told a victim that he worked with a diplomat named Earle Litzenberger, who is the current US ambassador to Azerbaijan. A person posing as Mr. Litzenberger sent a separate email to the same victim. Both emails were then linked to the same IP address in Ghana, according to the complaint.

Posing as a member of the United States services stationed in Syria, a participant in the scheme claimed in an email in May 2018 that his unit had recovered millions of dollars in gold bars and had asked a victim of the Money to cover shipping costs from him, which he says was valued at more than $12 million, in the United States, prosecutors said.

This recipient transferred approximately $93,710 to two domestic bank accounts over the following weeks, according to the complaint. Much of it went to an account registered with a fake used car dealer, called “Rubbin Sarpong Autosales”. On June 13, 2018, the woman told her daughter that she was going to the airport to meet a diplomat named Alwin Rolf Lyss, with the gold. The next day, according to prosecutors, the woman committed suicide.