A Houston, Texas, woman will spend 6½ years in federal prison and forfeit a Bentley Bentayga and a Mercedes Benz for bilking victims out of more than $1.26 million in an online romance scam.
Dominique Golden, 31, and four co-conspirators used dating websites such as Match.com, Our Time and Christian Mingle as well as apps and the telephone to hit 12 victims in 10 states, including a Wakefield resident who lost $660,00, according to records in U.S. District Court, Providence. All of the victims were women, either widows or divorcees.
Golden was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Providence, U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a news release. She pleaded guilty Sept. 1 to one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Golden admitted to U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. that she collected and banked more than $1.26 million of the more than $2.5 million she and co-conspirators bilked from the unsuspecting victims, Cunha said.
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McConnell ordered Golden to pay restitution of $1,263,823. As part of that, she will forfeit her interest in any assets related to the scam, including the cars, two gold oyster perpetual Rolex watches, a 24-inch gold rope chain, a 16-inch gold rope chain with a diamond coin pendant, and three firearms, Cunha said.
"With today's sentence, Ms. Golden will deservedly trade her stolen luxuries for a prison jumpsuit, and I am pleased that we have the chance to return at least some of the proceeds of her fraud to her many victims," Cunha said in the release.
The scam ran from at least May 2015 until November 2019, according to an affidavit. To carry it out, the conspirators would contact victims, "primarily elderly individuals," via the internet and app-based communication platforms, get the victims' trust, and convince them they urgently needed money, Cunha said.
Golden previously admitted that she obtained fake identification using various aliases, created business in her own name as well as in the names of her aliases and opened multiple bank accounts using both her aliases and businesses to receive and deposit "romance scam" victim funds, Cunha said.
Golden collected and deposited $1,263,823 into the bank accounts she controlled, according to Cunha. Golden admitted that, collectively, members of the conspiracy defrauded victims of about $2,545,041 while Golden was involved, Cunha said.
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In the Rhode Island case, someone contacted the victim, identified in the indictment only as P.T., born in 1943, via the online game Words with Friends. The caller identified himself as "General Matthew Weyer," said he was stationed in Afghanistan and needed money to ship a box to the United States. From March 2018 until about February 2019, P.T. sent $660,000 in checks and wire transfers to Golden and other conspirators, the indictment says.
"Fraud that preys on the emotions and vulnerabilities of vulnerable victims - especially the elderly - to cheat them out of their hard-earned savings is unconscionable," Cunha said.
McConnell ordered that Golden's 78-month sentence be served at the same time as an unrelated 54-month federal sentence out of Georgia for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Golden will also be under federal supervision for three years after her release.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise M. Barton, with the help of Assistant U.S. Attorney John McAdams. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in Atlanta.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Texas romance scammer gets prison time for stealing from RI resident
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