At first glance, women swiping through a dating app might have found Brian Wedgeworth’s profile impressive. Alongside pictures of him in a white lab coat was Wedgeworth’s claim that he was a surgeon who attended respected schools and worked for world-renowned hospitals, according to court documents.
What those women didn’t know, however, was that Wedgeworth’s profile and generous offer were a tool to suck them in — and then steal their money, according to investigators.
Over the span of about four and a half years, using approximately 13 aliases on about seven dating apps, Wedgeworth defrauded at least 40 victims across at least seven states, prosecutors said. He was arrested in November and admitted this week to stealing more than $1 million.
On Thursday, in a federal court in Tallahassee, Wedgeworth, 46, pleaded guilty to 25 counts related to the scheme. His public defender did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment late Thursday.
Wedgeworth, who has ties to both Tallahassee and Center Point, Ala., told the judge the statement of facts in his case was accurate, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. “It’s true,” he said.
The plea deal for Wedgeworth, who is known in Florida as the “Casanova Scammer,” comes on the heels of Netflix’s popular documentary “The Tinder Swindler.” The film, which was ranked the No. 1 English-language movie on Netflix for three consecutive weeks earlier this year, follows the experiences of three women who say they were defrauded by Shimon Hayut, a man who falsely claimed to be an Israeli diamond tycoon named Simon Levie.
Hayut allegedly stole $10 million over two years from women he met on Tinder in Europe.
Wedgeworth spent years moving from state to state pulling off his scheme, prosecutors say. In 2014, he was convicted of identity fraud and forgery in Georgia, according to court documents, and spent just over a year in prison starting in October 2016. Even while incarcerated, Wedgeworth continued his romance schemes, according to prosecutors.
Wedgeworth would create dating profiles on Match, Plenty of Fish, Christian Mingle, Hinge, Bumble, CoffeeMeetsBagel and the League, the indictment says. Under varying names, he presented himself as a physician who worked for or was educated at institutions including Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the indictment says.
On a few occasions, he showed women fake pay stubs, including one in 2019 that purportedly showed he was paid over $585,000 a year, according to court documents.
Wedgeworth would often meet with the women in person to gain their trust, prosecutors said. He got access to their personal information when he offered to pay off their debts. They’d hand over “their banking and loan information, including account numbers, logins, and passwords, and their personal identification information, including their full name, date of birth, and social security number,” the indictment says.
He would then send an electronic payment to the accounts — credit card companies, mortgage lenders and other creditors — using bank accounts that had “insufficient funds and were previously closed,” according to prosecutors.
“By making these electronic payments … Wedgeworth caused the women to receive notifications from their lenders and creditors that payments were made on their debts and that their debts were paid in full, when in fact they had not been paid in full,” the indictment says.
But before the women found out their debts were not actually paid, Wedgeworth would get them to send him money, court documents say. Often, he’d claim that his bank accounts were frozen because of a medical malpractice lawsuit or that he was short on cash after paying off the debts, according to court records.
Prosecutors say Wedgeworth persuaded the women to withdraw cash or deposit funds into a bank account under a different name from the one he was using — claiming they belonged to a nonexistent business partner or assistant. If the women said they didn’t have enough money to help him, he encouraged them to apply for loans, prosecutors said.
On a few occasions, he persuaded women to buy him expensive jewelry, including Rolex watches, on the promise that he would pay them back, the affidavit says. He never did, court records add, and many times he’d sell the jewelry for cash.
And with the personal information he collected for the fake loan payments, prosecutors say, Wedgeworth accessed his victims’ bank accounts and made himself an authorized user on their cards. He upped the spending limit, “obtained lines of credit and obtained cash advances on the women’s credit and debit card accounts,” the affidavit says. Sometimes he’d use the cards to buy expensive watches and tickets to sports games, court records show.
According to the plea agreement, Wedgeworth swindled upward of $114,000 from one woman and tens of thousands each from at least 13 others.
There were a few occasions when the women caught on, the indictment says. One time, a woman confronted him about his fake name, his criminal history and the news articles calling him the “Casanova Scammer.” Wedgeworth’s excuse was that the prison time and news stories were part of his cover as an undercover federal agent, the indictment says.
Wedgeworth was arrested in November in Tennessee. At the time, he was wanted in Ohio and Alabama on fraud charges, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
Wedgeworth’s 25 charges include money laundering, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and mail fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison per count of money laundering, up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud and mail fraud, and a minimum of two years for aggravated identity theft, to be served consecutively to any other sentence he may receive. The hearing is on Aug. 8.