Rubbin Sarpong never was a U.S. Navy petty officer stationed in Canada or Syria who needed a little cash to come home to his loved one.
Although one victim sent him $50,000 in a series of wire transfers dating back to early 2016, according to court documents, Sarpong really was laundering her money, stashing it in bank accounts or doling it out to co-conspirators on two continents to further what authorities say is an ongoing swindle that preys on lonely hearts with a crush on military men.
Sarpong’s alleged scheme was outlined in a 27-page federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in Camden, New Jersey. It paints him as a grifter living in the south New Jersey town of Millville, with tentacles that reached out to at least 30 victims and three co-conspirators in the U.S. and the West African nation of Ghana.
Federal court records reveal that Sarpong was arrested Wednesday, a day after being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
A probable cause affidavit filed by Special Agent Dean J. DiPietro, a member of the FBI’s White Collar Crime squad in Atlantic City, estimates that Sarpong and the other three people netted at least $2.1 million in the scams over the past 3 ½ years.
Messages left with Sarpong’s federal public defenders in Camden were not returned on Thursday and no defense attorneys assigned to him are listed on the magistrate’s docket.
The scheme dated back to early 2016, when Sarpong and his alleged co-conspirators began setting up dating profiles at Plenty of Fish, Ourtime.com and Match.com using fictitious or stolen identities of U.S. military personnel deployed overseas, according to the FBI affidavit.
On at least one occasion, Sarpong’s co-conspirators emailed a victim a copy of a fake Common Access Card to prove military status, DiPietro wrote.
After establishing “virtual romantic relationships” with the women through the dating sites and “wooing them with words of love" with texts and emails, the bogus service members later asked to borrow money “to ship gold bars to the United States” they received, recovered or were awarded in the Middle East, the filing alleges.
Originally from Ghana, Sarpong is a legal permanent resident of the U.S. who received $823,386 of the $2.1 million trove, sending more than half of the loot to his co-conspirators in wire transfers disguised as “car payments," according to the affidavit.
But the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles told FBI he never was a licensed used car dealer and “Rubbin Sarpong Autosales” didn’t exist.
On his Facebook and Instagram accounts, he boasted of his loot, mugging with the moolah or posing next to a white Mercedes, a Rolex watch and designer clothing, DiPietro wrote.
On an April 10, 2018, Instagram post, for example, Sarpong thanked Oluwa — God in the Yoruba language — while gripping what he claimed was $10,000 in “Burger Money."
A day earlier, Victim 15 wired $21,441.72 to a bank account he controlled and he had pulled out $8,000 in cash, according to the affidavit.
In a similar Dec. 6, 2018, photo next to a large stack of money, Sarpong allegedly typed “Bundle Up With The Bloody Money” and “I Told God LastNight Everything I Touch First Thing In the Morning Should Turn Into Money... God Answers My Prayers.”
To sell their schemes to the marks, the co-conspirators morphed into a cast of characters that included bogus American and West African diplomats, an Israeli delivery agent for the United Nations and attorneys who claimed they were working with the sham service members to smuggle the treasure out of Syria, the court filing indicates.
And FBI claims these elaborate confidence games had deadly consequences for Victim 2.
From May 22 to June 12, 2018, she allegedly wired $93,710 to two U.S. bank accounts tied to the ring, DiPietro wrote.
Her daughter told agents that on June 13 she was going to Baltimore/Washington International Airport to pick up the person posing as an Israeli bearing gold bars, according to the affidavit.
It’s unclear in the affidavit what happened next, but Victim 2 killed herself the next day.