A Florida man posing as a surgeon pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after stealing more than $1.3 million from over 30 women he met on online dating websites.
Brian Wedgeworth — who used a variety of aliases, 14 in total — pleaded guilty to 25 counts related to the yearslong romantic fraud schemes in which he would pose as a doctor at prestigious universities and hospitals to “develop romantic relationships with [women] and to gain their trust,” according to the Department of Justice. The man had duped at least 30 women in eight states, including Florida, California, Texas, Maryland, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama.
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“Our citizens should not be preyed upon by fraudsters who steal through overtures of affection,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Coody. “With the assistance of our dedicated law enforcement partners, we are committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting those who engage in all acts of fraud.”
Wedgeworth would use photographs of himself posing as a doctor to make connections with women online and brag about his success at facilities such as Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Medical Center, and the University of Pennsylvania despite having no employment history there. He would then assure the women he could pay off their debt and loan payments because he didn’t want them to struggle with their finances, offering to take it on himself.
As part of his scheme, he would persuade women to give him their banking login information as well as their full names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, according to court documents.
With the bank account information, Wedgeworth would add himself as an authorized user to increase their credit limits and obtain cash advances, according to court documents. He would then use this money to purchase expensive jewelry and tickets to sports games.
Wedgeworth would then send electronic payments to the women’s credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and other debt collectors using an account that was previously closed due to insufficient funds. However, because the debts were paid electronically, the women would get a notification that the payment had been processed before being told later they were not approved.
The man would then use those false payments as leverage to convince the women to repay him, telling them his bank account was frozen after paying off their debts and convincing them he needed money to pay off a medical malpractice lawsuit, documents state. Wedgeworth would have the women withdraw cash from their account to send him or write a check.
If they didn’t have enough money to pay him, he would convince them to take out additional loans to give him the funds, according to the DOJ. In some cases, he would convince the women to buy him expensive jewelry, saying he would pay them back. He never did.
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One woman confronted him about using a fake name, connecting him to crimes he committed in Georgia where he was dubbed the “Casanova Scammer” for committing romantic fraud schemes, documents state. However, he told her he was an undercover agent who was instructed to get arrested so he could observe correctional officers who were committing misconduct inside jails. The aforementioned persona was part of that backstory, he said.
Wedgeworth admitted to the fraud schemes Thursday and pleaded guilty to all 25 counts. He is set to be sentenced in court Aug. 8 and faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and mail fraud, up to 10 years for money laundering, and at least two years for aggravated identity theft.