Arrested: Man accused of stealing $1M in dating scam

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio man is set to appear in federal court today after being indicted for defrauding online dating site users out of more than $1 million in a complex scam. Benjamin Adu Acheampong, 37, allegedly conspired with others to create fake dating profiles and establish connections with unsuspecting victims. Once trust was established, Acheampong and his accomplices would manipulate victims into sending money through mail or wire transfers under false pretenses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The 7-count federal indictment states that Acheampong scammed over $1 million from online dating connections over a two-and-a-half-year period. Acheampong, a dual citizen of Ghana and the U.S., has been charged with fraud and money laundering, each of which can carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The scam involved convincing victims that the individuals in the fake profiles were expecting a significant inheritance of gold. Acheampong and his associates then requested financial assistance to bring the fictitious gold to the U.S., claiming the funds were needed for plane tickets or medical expenses. To conceal the source of the money further, Acheampong laundered a portion of the $1 million through wire transfers to African bank accounts. He also used a bank account under the name of ABA Automotive & Export LLC, an Ohio-based company he had established.

Additionally, Acheampong was indicted for securing a fraudulent COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan amounting to over $20,000. The PPP loan was obtained by making false statements in the application process, as reported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The case sheds light on the prevalence of scams targeting individuals through online dating sites, highlighting the need for increased vigilance and awareness. In Massachusetts, similar cases have resulted in financial restitution to victims. In October, a Boston man was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay back $878,652 after defrauding victims of over $1.3 million on dating sites. In January, a Taunton man was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1.1 million in restitution.

The indictment against Acheampong reinforces the ongoing efforts by law enforcement to combat online scams and protect vulnerable individuals. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been cracking down on fraudsters exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic relief programs, as approximately 17% of all COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans and PPP loans may have been disbursed to fraudulent recipients, according to the Small Business Administration.