A Cumberland County man was sentenced today to 14 years in prison for conspiring to commit wire and money laundering and tax evasion in connection with a romance fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
According to U.S. Attorney Sellinger, Rubbin Sarpong, 38, of Millville, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with conspiring to commit wire fraud, conspiring to commit money laundering and tax evasion.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From January 2016 to September 3, 2019, Sarpong and his conspirators, several of whom reside in Ghana, allegedly participated in an online romance scheme, defrauding victims in New Jersey and elsewhere.
Sarpong and the conspirators set up dating profiles on various dating websites, using fictitious or stolen identities and posing as United States military personnel who were stationed overseas.
They contacted victims through the dating websites and then pretended to strike up a romantic relationship with them.
After establishing virtual romantic relationships with victims on the online dating platforms and via email, the conspirators asked them for money, often for the purported purpose of paying to ship gold bars to the United States.
Although the stories varied, most often, Sarpong and the conspirators claimed to be military personnel stationed in Syria who received, recovered, or were awarded gold bars.
The conspirators told many victims that their money would be returned once the gold bars were received in the United States.
Sarpong and the conspirators used several email accounts and Voice Over Internet Protocol phone numbers to communicate with victims and instruct them on where to wire money, including recipient names, addresses, financial institutions, and account numbers.
At least 40 identified victims wired money to Sarpong and others in the United States, including 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.
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.
The funds were not used for the purposes claimed by the conspirators – that is, to transport non-existent gold bars to the United States – but were instead withdrawn in cash, wired to other domestic bank accounts, and wired to other conspirators in Ghana.
While engaged in this fraud, Sarpong purchased property in Ghana and posted photographs of himself on social media showing him with large amounts of cash, high-end cars, designer clothing, and expensive jewelry.
Despite having received approximately $1.14 million in taxable income from the scheme during tax years 2016 through 2018, Sarpong filed no income tax returns and paid no income tax, resulting in a tax loss of $387,923.