A Millville man was arrested Wednesday on charges that he defrauded more than 30 people of $2.1 million in an elaborate online dating scheme where he and conspirators acted as United States military members attempting to ship gold bars home.
Rubbin Sarpong, 35, was to appear before Judge Joel Schneider in Camden federal court Wednesday on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
The following details from this case were taken from court documents and statements:
From January 2016 to September 2019, Sarpong and several conspirators — many who reside in Ghana — reportedly set up profiles on various dating websites using fake or stolen identities posing as United States military personnel stationed overseas.
“They contacted victims through the dating websites and then pretended to strike up a romantic relationship with them, wooing them with words of love,” according to the criminal complaint.
After starting a relationship with the victims, Sarpong and his conspirators would ask them for money, authorities claim, often for the claimed purpose of paying to ship nonexistent gold bars to the United States.
The most common story used by Sarpong and his conspirators was that they were military personnel stationed in Syria who were awarded gold bars. The conspirators told many of the victims their money would be reimbursed once the gold bars arrived in the United States.
In one case, a conspirator claimed he was a U.S. solider stationed in Syria who had recovered gold bars worth $12 million and needed help bringing them over. He sent her a fictitious airway bill showing that two trunks with “family treasure” would be sent to her, along with a fake United Nations Identity Card that identified him as an Israeli citizen and UN delivery agent.
She wired him more than $93,000 and they planned to meet at the Baltimore/Washington International on June 13, 2018. The next day she died by suicide.
Authorities say Sarpong and his conspirators used various email accounts and Voice Over Internet protocol phone numbers to communicate with the victims and instruct them where to wire money.
Victims, on occasion, also sent money via personal and cashier’s checks.
Authorities say the funds were then withdrawn in cash, wired to other domestic bank accounts and wired to conspirators in Ghana.
Sarpong, who was found posting photographs of himself with large amounts of cash, high-end cars and expensive jewelry, personally received $823,386 in the scheme, authorities said.
According to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Sarpong was active on social media and “bragged about his wealth.”
Authorities say on March 2, 2017, Sarpong posted a photograph of himself sitting in a car with a large stack of money up to his ear like a cellphone with a caption that read “WakeUp With 100k… One Time. Making A phone Call To Let My Bank Know Am Coming.”
In a May 29, 2017 post, Sarpong posted a photograph of himself in front of a white Mercedes with the comment “BloodyMoney,” according to the complaint.
On December 12, 2018, Sarpong posted a photograph of himself with an unidentified male with the comment “BigBusiness Done…Now We Waiting For The Checks To Clear,” authorities said.
Sarpong faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to Carpenito.