A Charlotte man has admitted guilt in an online gold and romance scheme that prosecutors say spanned two continents and conned older women out of more than $1 million, officials said Tuesday.
Suleman Alhassan, a 37-year-old Ghanaian national who lives in Charlotte, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to wire and mail fraud conspiracy in the scam, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray’s office.
Alhassan and a cohort of co-conspirators, who have not been indicted, used online dating websites to pull off the scheme in Charlotte and in the West African country of Ghana, according to a criminal indictment, which The Charlotte Observer reported on in June, when Alhassan was indicted.
Using fake identities, the men are accused of targeting 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. Prosecutors say the victims were asked to send cash in the mail and give 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 court records.
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, court records show.
Mail and wire fraud conspiracy and mail fraud charges carry up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Alhassan remained in the Mecklenburg County jail this week. His sentencing date for the international scam case has not been scheduled, prosecutors said.