CAMDEN – A Millville man has received a prison term for his role in a romance scam that took more than $3 million from victims, including one woman who killed herself.
Rubbin Sarpong, 38, and accomplices used fictitious or stolen identities to create dating profiles while posing as U.S. military personnel stationed overseas, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey.
After starting online romances, the conspirators asked at least 40 victims for large amounts of money, often claiming they needed cash to ship non-existent gold bars to the United States.
Victims were told they’d recover their money once the bars arrived in this country, the federal prosecutor's office said.
In one instance in 2018, a victim killed herself after sending more than $90,000 to participants in the scam, says a criminal complaint.
It says the woman received a photo of a man purportedly bringing the gold bars to America "so she would recognize him when she picked him up at the airport."
The woman was found dead from suicide one day after the man and the gold bars failed to appear, the complaint says.
Victims sent money to 13 bank accounts controlled by Sarpong from January 2016 to September 2019, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement.
“Occasionally, victims also mailed personal checks or cashier’s checks to the conspirators and also transferred money to the conspirators via money transfer services, such as Western Union and MoneyGram,” it said.
It said Sarpong and accomplices used the money for personal expenses from January 2016 to September 2019.
Sarpong, for instance, bought property in his native Ghana and also transferred funds to accomplices in that country, the statement noted.
"In Facebook and Instagram accounts, Sarpong bragged about the money he was making by posting photographs himself posing with large amounts of cash, as well as photographs of luxury vehicles and expensive designer clothing," says a criminal complaint.
Sarpong previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and to launder money. He also admitted to evading federal income taxes of almost $388,000.
U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb on Tuesday imposed a 14-year prison term on Sarpong. She also ordered him to pay restitution to victims of a little more than $3 million.
Sarpong also must satisfy his tax debt, the judge ordered.
And she required him to pay about $4,100 to the New Jersey Department of Health and $6,900 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That would reimburse the agencies for Medicaid and food-assistance benefits provided to Sarpong and his two children from September 2018 through August 2019. Sarpong falsely stated his income in order to qualify for those programs, a court record says.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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This article originally appeared on Vineland Daily Journal: Rubbin Sarpong and others posed as soldiers looking to ship gold bars