The Silver Spring, Md., man searched popular online dating sites, posing as someone looking for love, prosecutors said. There were emails and instant messages that led to phone calls and texts as he courted potential partners.
But prosecutors said that once the man gained a person’s trust, he used the promise of romantic relationships to obtain money — more than $600,000 over two years.
A federal jury this week convicted Evans Appiah, 27, on charges of wire and mail fraud, conspiracy and aggravated identify theft related to what authorities described as an “Internet romance scheme” with at least seven men and women.
In a six-day trial at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, prosecutors said Appiah looked through online dating websites to initiate the relationships, including with victims in Wisconsin, California and Florida. Once he had their trust, prosecutors said, Appiah would ask for money.
Appiah and his co-conspirators often pitched “false stories and promises to convince the victims to send them money,” according to a statement from the office of Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, which has prosecuted a series of similar cases.
Four victims testified at trial, including a recently divorced high school guidance counselor. She paid Appiah $160,000, prosecutors said, for what he told her were emergency travel and health situations. Appiah had told the woman he was in love with her and would help raise her children, prosecutors said.
Appiah created 10 bank accounts to receive the funds, authorities said, and in some cases used the money to make purchases that he then shipped to others outside the United States.
In one instance, prosecutors said, Appiah used the name and other identity information of a victim as he deposited the victim’s cashier’s check into his own bank account.
The scheme Appiah ran lasted from December 2013 to June 2015.
Appiah’s attorney, Michael Rothman, declined to comment Thursday because his client faces sentencing in August. Appiah was taken into custody after the verdict on Wednesday and faces up to 20 years in prison on some of the charges.