Federal prosecutors in Charlotte say a man pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire and mail fraud conspiracy in “romance and precious metal scams” that targeted the elderly.
Suleman Alhassan, 37, a citizen of Ghana who lives in Charlotte, faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. He’s yet to be sentenced.
Prosecutors say Alhassan and unindicted co-conspirators used fake identities and online dating sites to lure victims – often the elderly – into false romantic relationships. The alleged schemers claimed to own “large quantities of gold” in Ghana and asked victims to send money to help ship the gold to the United States and other countries.
Alhassan admitted in court Tuesday that he and others in the scheme promised victims a share of the profit when the gold made it to the United States or was sold, according to prosecutors. Scammers also asked victims to send money to help their supposed love interest secure travel documents, prosecuters said.
“Alhassan and his co-conspirators used fictitious problems, including problems with travel visas and customs-related issues, and continued to call, text and email the victims and insist that additional money was needed, until the victims either ran out of money or discovered the fraudulent nature of the scheme,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in announcing Alhassan’s plea.
More than $1 million was lost due to the scheme.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service and Homeland Security.