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A soldier stationed at then-Fort Bragg orchestrated a series of online romance scams and other frauds that swindled victims out of thousands of dollars — at least one over $150,000 — over a two-year span, according to the Justice Department.

Sanda G. Frimpong, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ghana, was an E-4 soldier assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina when he and other conspirators launched a series of online schemes between December 2019 and February 2022 to defraud people of money according to an indictment against him.

“To execute the fraud, conspirators impersonated romantic love interests, diplomats, customs personnel, military personnel, and assumed other fictitious personas,” the indictment says. “Sanda G. Frimpong knowingly utilized his personal bank accounts to receive or send money obtained via a variety of frauds, such as the false promise of a romantic relationship and/or gold.”

Frimpong was ultimately arrested in 2023 and later pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering, a Justice Department news release says.  He was sentenced on Thursday to 40 months in prison.

A federal indictment detailed a scam in which Frimpong and his co-conspirators posed as a fictional soldier on a wartime deployments who was in possession of unlikely treasures.  

The victim, identified in the indictment by the initials A.H., met “Tom Tanner” on a dating website. “Tanner” claimed to be deployed to Afghanistan, court records show. Tanner asked A.H., who had recently gone through a divorce after 25 years of marriage, to marry him, but he delayed meeting A.H. in person.

Eventually, Tanner claimed he had access to gold and diamonds, but he needed A.H. to send him money so he could transfer the assets, court records show. In September 2021, A.H. was contacted by “Shawn Martins,” who claimed to be Tanner’s attorney.

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At Martins’ suggestion, A.H. sent Sanda Frimpong a cashier’s check for $50,000, the indictment says. A.H. then sent a second check for the same amount after Martins said that the name on the first one had been misspelled as “Sandra.”

Martins later told A.H. that it would cost another $36,000 to change the ownership documents, court records show.

“On or about September 23, 2021, A.H. responded with concern stating she needed to talk to their financial advisor because there has been a lot of fraud related to military personnel,” court records show.

But after Tanner emailed A.H. fraudulent documents about transferring gold bars and diamonds, A.H. wrote another cashier’s check for $100,000, according to court records. A.H. later sent Frimpong even more money.

In another incident, a victim identified as K.W. was contacted by someone who claimed to be “Catharine White,” court records show. The two developed a virtual relationship and K.W., a widower, intended to marry White.

White eventually claimed that she needed money to pay a fee needed to release gold that she inherited from her late father that was allegedly being held in Canada, the indictment says. Later, White claimed she had been detained by a Canadian customs officer named Sanda Frimpong and asked that K.W. wire money to Frimpong’s bank account to pay duties on the gold.

“To further perpetuate the scheme, ‘Catherine White’ sent K.W. photographs of the purported gold bars, a photograph of a woman in handcuffs, and a counterfeit Canada Border Services Agency document,” the indictment says.

K.W. ultimately sent Frimpong more than $7,000.

Additionally, Frimpong and his conspirators stole personal identity information from several people to collect unemployment insurance benefits that had been expanded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, the indictment says. At the time, people who applied for the benefits did not need to submit supporting documentation.

Starting in April 2020, Frimpong and another conspirator identified in the initials B.S. worked with others in the Republic of Ghana to use stolen identities to apply online for federal CARES Act funds and employment benefits from several states including California, Texas, and Arizona, court records show.

One of the people whose identities was stolen as part of the scheme died in February 2022, the indictment says.

Frimpong’s attorney declined to comment when contacted by Task & Purpose on Friday.

“Romance scammers exploit our most vulnerable citizens, even our seniors and military veterans, sometimes leaving them financially and emotionally devastated,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Michael Easley said in a statement. “The fact that an Army service member was involved in romance scams while serving as a soldier is appalling.  We are partnering with the Department of Defense to drum out fraudsters and money launderers like Frimpong from our military ranks and put them in prison where they belong.”

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