‘Catfish’ scammer jailed for 14 years after posing as US soldiers on dating websites
A man who helped dupe dozens of women into sending millions of dollars to people posing as US soldiers in an online dating fraud has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Rubbin Sarpong, 38, shared his flash lifestyle getting out of high-performance sports cars, wearing designer clothing and expensive jewellery on Instagram using money he swindled out of 36 victims.
The New Jersey resident was sentenced to 14 years in prison and now must pay more than $3 million in restitution to his victims under the sentence.
He had pleaded guilty last November to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and tax evasion counts.
Federal prosecutors say the scheme ran from January 2016 to September 2019. They say Sarpong and his co-conspirators, several of whom live in Ghana, set up phony profiles on online dating sites using fictitious or stolen identities and posing as U.S. military personnel.
The fraudsters contacted victims through the dating websites and then pretended to strike up a romantic relationship with them.
A ‘catfish’ is the term for a person who pretends to be someone else online.
After establishing virtual romantic relationships with victims on the online dating platforms and via email, the conspirators asked them for money, often for the purported purpose of paying to ship gold bars to the United States.
Although the stories varied, most often Sarpong and the conspirators claimed to be military personnel stationed in Syria who received, recovered, or were awarded gold bars. The conspirators told many victims that their money would be returned once the gold bars were received in the United States.
But instead it was withdrawn in cash, wired to other domestic bank accounts and to other conspirators in Ghana.
Sarpong received roughly $1.14 million in taxable income from the scheme but didn’t file income tax returns and paid no income tax, prosecutors said.
None of his co-conspirators have been charged.