A New Jersey man admitted to running an online dating scam in which he created fake profiles pretending to be U.S. soldiers serving oversees and duped 40 women into sending him over $1 million over a two-year period.
Rubbin Sarpong, 37, of Millville, used the pilfered fortune to buy property in Ghana and often posted photos on social media showing wads of cash and newly purchased luxury cars, jewelry and designer clothes, according to court documents.
Sarpong pleaded guilty in Camden federal court to charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud, conspiring to commit money laundering and tax evasion, according to a press release from the U.S. District Court of New Jersey published on Wednesday.
He allegedly conspired with three other men living in Ghana to convince his victims to wire him money through several different New Jersey bank accounts.
Rubbin Sarpong, 37, of Millville, New Jersey, admitted to running a $1M online dating scam that duped 40 women over a two-year period. Above, he is posing with Gucci clothes, a bottle of Hennessey and a sports car
Sarpong created fake profiles pretending to be U.S. soldiers serving oversees. He posted numerous photos on Instagram with wads of cash he bilked from his victims
Sarpong used their money to buy property in Ghana, luxury cars, jewelry and designer clothes that he posted photos of on Instagram
He told each victim that he needed money to ship gold bars to the states and would pay them back once they were received. Little did they know that he withdrew the money in cash to support his lavish lifestyle
He and his conspirators told his victims that he was stationed in Syria and received, recovered or was awarded gold bars, but needed money to pay for their shipment to the United States. The crew told many of the victims that they would be paid back once the gold bars were received in the United States.
However, the gold bars never existed and Sarpong withdrew the money in cash before wiring it to domestic bank accounts and to other conspirators in Ghana.
At least 40 identified victims wired money to Sarpong and others in the United States, including to 13 bank accounts controlled by Sarpong, some of which were in the names of his friends, relatives, and a fictitious business entity, Rubbin Sarpong Autosales.
One of his victims took her own life shortly after Sarpong duped her with his scam, though he has not been charged with any criminality related to her death.
One of Sarpong’s accomplices sent an email to a woman, whose identity was not released, in May 2018 and pretended to be a diplomat named Alwin Rolf Lyss, prosecutors said when Sarpong was first charged in September 2019.
The scammer told the victim his overseas unit had found millions in gold bars and that he was gifted with a box of them worth $12 million before asking the woman to send him money to help him get the gold to the U.S.
One of Sarpong’s alleged victims sent his group $93,710 before killing herself two days later, though Sarpong has not been charged with any criminality related to her death
Sarpong showed off gold jewelry and a Rolex watch he says he purchased with his small fortune
Between May 22, 2018 and June 12, 2018, she sent the men an estimated $93,710 to two U.S. bank accounts.
Two days later, she was found dead of an apparent suicide. The victim’s daughter told investigators her mother told her she was going to the airport to meet her mystery lover with the gold.
FBI agents said Sarpong and his co-conspirators used fake or stolen identities and contacted their victims through dating websites including Plenty of Fish, OurTime.com and Match.com, posing as U.S. military members stationed overseas in at least some instances.
‘They contacted victims through the dating websites and then pretended to strike up a romantic relationship with them, wooing them with words of love,’ FBI agent Dean J. DiPietro wrote in a sworn testimony.
‘As part of their scheme, the co-conspirators also created numerous email accounts and Voice over Internet Protocol (hereafter “VoIP”) phone numbers, which they used to communicate with victims.’
In some cases, victims mailed personal checks to Sarpong and his conspirators and in others they transferred money via services like Western Union and MoneyGram.
His first victim paid him $10,000 on December 6, 2017, and continued sending him money for the next month, giving him a total of $135,250 before he moved on to his next feigned relationship.
Sarpong duped 39 other women out of tens of thousands of dollars each over the next two years, with his last payment of $700 coming in on June 5, 2019.
He received about $1.14 million in taxable income, but didn’t file income tax returns and paid no income tax, causing a tax loss of $387,923, according to court documents.
Above is a breakdown of what each victim paid Sarpong and when the payments were made. His first victim paid him $10,000 on December 6, 2017, and continued sending him money for the next month
Sarpong, who was identified in court papers as both a Ghanaian citizen and legal, permanent U.S. resident, bought property in Ghana during the scam and purchased a number of expensive cars, jewelry and designer clothing.
Sarpong’s Instagram page is filled with pictures and videos of him showing off gold jewelry, Rolex watches, fancy dinners, and stacks of money in addition to high-end clothes, top-shelf liquor and luxury cars, using hashtags like #RichN*ggaSh*t.
‘LivingHighLifeStyle… Let Them Hate #RichLifeStyle,’ he wrote in the caption of an August 13, 2018 photo.
A September 20, 2017 Instagram video shows a small child smoking a hookah. Sarpong said the little girl was his daughter.
‘I left my daughter for one minute to use the bathroom… now look what I came back and see,’ he wrote in the video caption.
She been watching me for long,’ he continued. ‘I guess we might as well start smoking together from now on.’
Sarpong, who is scheduled to be sentenced on March 21, 2022, agreed in his plea deal to make restitution for the full amount of the money he amassed in the scam and to pay back the $387,923 in lost taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.
For his conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges, Sarpong could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount he gained from the scam – whichever is greatest, court documents say. For his tax evasion charge, he could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Sarpong also agreed to make full restitution to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of New Jersey for the Medicaid and SNAP benefits he continued using for himself and his children from September 2018 through August 2019.