A man pretended to fall in love with the people he met online. Then he conned them out of more than $1 million in a scheme he claimed involved gold, federal prosecutors in Charlotte said Tuesday.
Suleman Alhassan, 36, was indicted Tuedsay by a grand jury in U.S. District Court on mail fraud and wire and mail fraud conspiracy charges, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray. Alhassan is a citizen of the West African nation of Ghana who lives in Charlotte.
Alhassan and unindicted co-conspirators used online dating websites to pull off the scheme in Charlotte and Ghana, according to a criminal indictment unsealed Wednesday. Using fake identities, they targeted primarily elderly victims “with false promises of a romantic relationship,” according to a news release by Murray’s office.
Alhassan and his co-conspirators told their victims they owned “large quantities of gold” in Ghana and needed money to ship the gold to the United States and other countries, according to the indictment. They asked their victims to send cash in the mail and money via wire transfer services and money orders.
Victims “would receive a share of the profits when the gold was sold or brought into the United States,” Alhassan told them, according to the news release.
According to the indictment, Alhassan and his co-conspirators also said they needed money to obtain travel documents for the person with whom the victim believed to be in a romantic relationship.
They got more money out of their victims by telling them they’d encountered problems with travel visas and customs-related issues, records show.
Alhassan and his co-conspirators kept calling, texting and emailing their victims for even more money to cover new fees.
Alhassan made his initial appearance in federal court Wednesday morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Cayer. He was in jail Wednesday night on a federal hold, jail records showed.
Mail and wire fraud conspiracy and mail fraud charges carry up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.