A New Jersey man admitted that he orchestrated an online scam that conned dozens of unsuspecting women on dating sites out of more than a million dollars – and led one of them to suicide.
Rubbin Sarpong, 37, of Millville pocketed the money and bought property in Ghana, along with luxury cars, expensive jewelry, top-shelf booze, designer clothes and more, federal authorities said.
Then he flaunted it on Instagram.
Sarpong had catfishing accomplices, several of whom live in Ghana, Acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Rachael Honig said.
Posing as American military personnel stationed overseas, the cyber-Casanovas reeled in their victims on Plenty of Fish, OurTime.com and Match.com, among other dating sites, the U.S. attorney said.
They “pretended to strike up a romantic relationship...wooing them with words of love,” an FBI complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Camden says.
After fanning the virtual flames, they hit the victims up for money, claiming they needed it to "ship gold bars to the United States,” Honig said.
They promised the woman that their dough “would be returned once the gold bars were received,” she said.
At least 40 woman wired money to 13 bank accounts controlled by Sarpong, some of which were in the names of friends, relatives and even a fictitious business entity called Rubbin Sarpong Autosales, according to the FBI complaint.
One of the victims sent $93,710, it says. She killed herself two days later.
Sometimes victims mailed personal or cashier’s checks, the FBI said. Other times they used Western Union and MoneyGram.
The money was then laundered through other domestic bank accounts and co-conspirators in Ghana, according to the complaint.
Sarpong didn’t file any income tax returns from 2016 through 2018, stiffing the government out of nearly $400,000, Honig said.
He did, however, post photos and videos of himself living the high life. The images were rife with Rolex watches, fancy dinners and one of his apparent favorites: stacks of cash. Hashtags included #RichN*ggaSh*t and #RichLifeStyle.
Sarpong took a deal from the government rather than risk trial, pleading guilty this past week in federal court in Camden to separate counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, as well as a tax-evasion charge.
The plea agreement requires Sarpong to make restitution of $1.76 million, as well as pay $387,923 in taxes owed to the IRS.
He also must make full restitution, under the terms of the deal, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of New Jersey for Medicaid payments and SNAP benefits for himself and his children from September 2018 through August 2019.
U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb scheduled sentencing for March 21, 2022.
Honig credited special agents of the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, special agents of the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations in Newark and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation in Newark with the investigation leading the plea secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Vondra Carrig of her office in Camden.
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