Coon Rapids Man Sentenced to Prison for $1.3M Romance Fraud Scheme that Targeted Elderly Victims
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Coon Rapids man has been sentenced to 36 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and required to pay $1,356,995 in restitution for a romance fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims, announced U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
According to court documents, from at least in or about June 2020 through in or about March 2021, Solomon Eghosa Wilfred, 43, and other scheme participants knowingly and intentionally participated in and facilitated an online romance fraud scheme that targeted primarily elderly victims and lured them into sending money under false pretenses. The scheme relied on impersonating a real or plausible but fictitious person, such as a senior U.S. diplomat or military official, that contacted the victims through online social media applications. The scheme participants then sought to forge a romantic connection with the victims. If successful, the scheme participants would then ask the victims for money purportedly to assist the false persona with some problem or need. Occasionally, the scheme participants would even introduce the victims to a purported third-party intermediary who would corroborate the false persona’s story and assist in defrauding the victims. The victims eventually were directed to send large sums of money by mail or other commercial means to a specified name and address.
Wilfred primarily assisted with the collection and transfer of the fraudulently obtained funds. Wilfred opened at least six Post Office boxes in Minnesota and received hundreds of victims’ packages. He then collected the fraud proceeds and dispersed the money throughout the fraud network. Wilfred also directly communicated with some victims. For example, he sent some victims romantic cards containing trinkets, like wedding rings, and made it appear those mailing came from the false persona. This deepened the fictitious romantic connection and lured the victims into sending more money. In total, Wilfred received over 400 victim packages containing over $1.3 million in fraud proceeds during the scheme. Wilfred kept some of the proceeds for his personal benefit and disbursed the remainder of the proceeds to other scheme participants.
Wilfred pleaded guilty on June 15, 2023, to one count of mail fraud. He was sentenced yesterday by Judge Katherine M. Menendez.
This case was the result of an investigation conducted by FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jordan L. Sing and Robert M. Lewis prosecuted the case.