Man gets 14-year sentence for role in online dating scheme

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. dupe / dup / (v.) – to trick someone into believing or doing something

    A man duped me into giving $2,000 for a fake investment.

  2. co-conspirator / ˌkoʊ kənˈspɪr ə tər / (n.) – a person who helps someone do something illegal or unlawful

    The security guard who let the thieves escape was a co-conspirator of the theft.

  3. phony / ˈfoʊ ni / (adj.) – fake but made to look real so that it can trick people

    Some minors were caught trying to use a phony ID to enter the bar.

  4. fictitious / fɪkˈtɪʃ əs / (adj.) – describing something that’s not real or true

    They bought illegal drugs under fictitious names.

  5. purportedly / pərˈpɔr tɪd li / (adv.) – in a way that’s claimed or said to be true, but this may not be the case

    This sculpture was purportedly carved by my grandfather, but we don’t have any proof.


Read the text below.

A man who helped dupe dozens into sending millions of dollars to people posing as U.S. military personnel in an online dating scheme has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.

Rubbin Sarpong, 38, of Millville, New Jersey, must also pay more than $3 million in restitution to 36 victims under the sentence imposed Tuesday, as well as more than $385,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. He had pleaded guilty last November to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and tax evasion counts.

Federal prosecutors say the scheme ran from January 2016 to September 2019. They say Sarpong and his co-conspirators, several of whom live in Ghana, set up phony profiles on online dating sites using fictitious or stolen identities and posing as U.S. military personnel.

They eventually pretended to forge romantic relationships with at least 40 victims overall and sought money from them, often purportedly to ship gold bars to the United States. The conspirators told many victims that their money would be returned once the gold bars were received in the United States, but instead it was withdrawn in cash, wired to other domestic bank accounts and to other conspirators in Ghana.

Sarpong received roughly $1.14 million in taxable income from the scheme but didn’t file income tax returns and paid no income tax, prosecutors said.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The victims of the scheme may have signed up for the online dating app to find a potential relationship, but instead, they got duped. How do you think this experience will affect the victims? What do you think could help them recover from it? Discuss.
  • Since dating apps can be used for illegal activities, do you think that they should be banned fully? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Despite the bad experiences of many online dating app users, why do you think a lot of people are still signing up for them? Discuss.
  • Do you think it’s possible to find serious and lasting relationships through online dating apps? Why or why not? Discuss.