Wednesday, June 22 2022

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At first glance, women browsing a dating app might have found Brian Wedgeworth’s profile impressive. Alongside photos of him in a white coat, Wedgeworth claimed he was a surgeon who attended respected schools and worked for world-class hospitals, according to court documents.

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And once they started talking, some may have found it even more desirable. Wedgeworth was debt free, he would tell them. He was so financially stable, in fact, that he insisted on repaying their loans as well, prosecutors said.

What these women didn’t know, however, was that Wedgeworth’s profile and generous offer was a tool to suck them in – and then steal their money, investigators say.

Over the span of about four and a half years, using about 13 aliases on about seven dating apps, Wedgeworth defrauded at least 40 victims in at least seven states, prosecutors said. He was arrested in November and this week admitted to stealing more than $1 million.

In federal court in Tallahassee on Thursday, 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 on Thursday evening.

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Wedgeworth, who has ties to both Tallahassee and Center Point, Alabama, 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, known in Florida as the “Casanova Scammer,” follows Netflix’s popular documentary “The Tinder Swindler.” The film, which was ranked the top English language film on Netflix for three consecutive weeks earlier this year, follows the experiences of three women who say they were scammed 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 traveling from state to state to enact his scheme, prosecutors say. In 2014, he was convicted of impersonation and forgery in Georgia, according to court documents, and spent just over a year in prison beginning in October 2016. Even while incarcerated, Wedgeworth continued with his romantic plans, according to prosecutors.

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Wedgeworth allegedly creates dating profiles on Match, Plenty of Fish, Christian Mingle, Hinge, Bumble, CoffeeMeetsBagel and The League, the indictment says. Under different names, he presented himself as a doctor who worked or trained at institutions including Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to the act. of accusation.

On a few occasions, he showed women fake pay stubs, including one in 2019 that allegedly showed he was paid more than $585,000 a year, according to court documents.

Wedgeworth often met the women in person to gain their trust, prosecutors said. He gained access to their personal information when he offered to pay off their debts. They would hand over “their banking and loan information, including account numbers, usernames, and passwords, as well as their personal identifying information, including full name, date of birth, and social security number. “, states the indictment.

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He would then send electronic payment to 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 arranged for the women to receive notifications from their lenders and creditors that payments had been made on their debts and that their debts had been paid in full, when in fact they had not been paid in full” , says the indictment.

But before the women found out their debts weren’t actually being paid, Wedgeworth was asking them to send him money, according to court documents. Often, he claimed his bank accounts had been frozen due to a medical malpractice lawsuit or that he ran out of money after paying off debts, according to court records.

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Prosecutors say Wedgeworth persuaded the women to withdraw money or deposit funds into a bank account under a different name than he used – claiming they belonged to a non-existent 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 states. He never did, the court records add, and several times he sold the jewelry for cash.

And with the personal information he gathered for the bogus loan repayments, prosecutors say, Wedgeworth accessed his victims’ bank accounts and made himself an authorized user on their cards. He increased the spending limit, “obtained lines of credit and obtained cash advances on the women’s credit and debit card accounts,” the affidavit states. Sometimes he used the cards to buy expensive watches and tickets to sports matches, according to court records.

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According to the plea agreement, Wedgeworth defrauded more than $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, according to the indictment. A woman once confronted him about his fake name, criminal history, and news reports calling him a “Casanova Scammer.” Wedgeworth’s excuse was that the time spent in prison and the reporting were part of his cover as an undercover federal agent, according to the indictment.

Wedgeworth was arrested in November in Tennessee. At the time, he was wanted in Ohio and Alabama for fraud, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Wedgeworth’s 25 counts 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 identity theft. aggravated, to be served consecutively to any other sentence he may receive. . The hearing will take place on August 8.

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