Another dating app scammer has been apprehended, highlighting how dangerous online dating can be these days. Brian Brainard Wedgeworth, dubbed the “Casanova Scammer,” is the latest money-hungry dating app crook.
While posing as a doctor, he defrauded women out of $1,3 million over the course of five years. With his various “Dr” aliases and claims of attending prestigious colleges such as Harvard Medical School and Duke University, he deceived more than 30 women. Wedgeworth was charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering after this Tinder Swindler-style case landed him in hot water with the law.
Wedgeworth was able to persuade women he met on sites like Match.com, ChristianMingle, and Elite Singles to send him large sums of money by using a legit-looking uniform, well-staged photos, and an appropriately crafted business card. He bought a Rolex watch worth over $14 000 and tickets to the 2018 Sugar Bowl game between Clemson and Alabama, among other things, with the money he stole.
“Citizens should not be preyed upon by fraudsters who steal through overtures of affection,” the US attorney for the Northern District of Florida said in a statement. For all charges, the Casanova Scammer faces up to 32 years in prison.
What Is A Tinder Scam?
Tinder is one of the most popular dating apps, but it’s also one of the most vulnerable to scams. Because the sign-up process for this dating app is free and simple to complete, anyone could use it, even if they aren’t who they claim to be.
As a result, users must be cautious about who they talk to and meet up with on the app, as there are many scammers who may try to deceive them. Make no mistake: Tinder scams based on fraudulent activity are real, and the risk of a Tinder user walking away with a compromised identity rather than a date at the local bistro on a Saturday night is very real.
Scammers are increasingly targeting Tinder as a way to swipe users’ personal dates instead of swiping right or left, thanks to the company’s growing online presence.
Details Regarding The Scam Case
Johnson, one of the site’s 150 million registered users, was confident she’d find a good match. That was not the case. Johnson, like tens of thousands of other Americans who use online dating, claims she was duped. She forewarned her daughter and told her story to the local media.
According to federal prosecutors, Brian Brainard Wedgeworth, 46, defrauded Johnson of thousands of dollars in 2017. In October, a grand jury indicted him, and he was arrested in Nashville shortly after.
Guilty Plea From Wedgeworth Expected
Wedgeworth, who has remained in federal custody and is known by at least 13 aliases, is expected to enter a guilty plea in federal court in Tallahassee on Thursday morning, according to prosecutors.
He faces up to 20 years in prison for wire and mail fraud, as well as ten years for money laundering, if convicted. Prosecutors believe he defrauded at least 21 women in eight states, amassing more than $750,000 over the course of several years. If the judge orders restitution in the case, it’s unclear whether Wedgeworth will be able to reimburse any of his accusers from the money prosecutors claim he stole from them.
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Wedgeworth’s ex-wife lives in Tallahassee, according to prosecutors, but he has no home of his own. Assistant US Attorney Justin Keen wrote to the judge, “When he is not in prison, the defendant typically lives with the women he victimizes.” Wedgeworth was so dishonest, the judge agreed with prosecutors, that he couldn’t be trusted to remain free between his arrest and trial. Johnson and the women named in Wedgeworth’s indictment — the majority of whom were not identified by name and a few of whom were only identified by initials — claim Wedgeworth misled them into believing he was a single surgeon looking to settle down.
Romance scams are most common on online dating platforms, and they involve one party pretending to be romantically interested in another in order to gain their trust and access their funds. They’ve become more common and expensive. Last year, the FBI reported that romance scam losses totaled more than $1 billion.
Methodology in Reporting About Brian Wedgeworth
This reporting is based on a five-month investigation into Wedgeworth and the case against him, which included a review of his federal court records as well as more than 400 pages of police reports and court documents from states outside of Florida where he has been accused – and in some cases convicted – of similar conduct.
It also includes excerpts from Johnson’s social media posts and podcast interviews, as well as interviews with Wedgeworth’s sister, Juanicca Wedgeworth, and Johnson’s oldest daughter, Tiffany Maximin. Johnson died a month before Wedgeworth’s indictment, but she spoke about her encounter with Wedgeworth to a Jacksonville television news station in 2017. Romance fraud has grown in tandem with an increase in the number of people using online dating sites. With more users, there are more potential victims.
Wedgeworth has been dubbed the “Casanova Scammer” after allegations that he has made a career out of preying on women looking for love. According to the indictment, he pretended to be a wealthy doctor and surgeon. He has previously pleaded guilty to similar charges in Georgia and Alabama, including dozens of counts of fraud and forgery. According to court records, he was wanted by law enforcement in Ohio and Alabama when he was arrested in Tennessee last year.
Wedgeworth declined to comment on the case against him through his lawyer, Joseph DeBelder. Wedgeworth’s public defender, DeBelder, said, “Wedgeworth will not be speaking to any media under the advice of his counsel.” In addition to the federal case, at least seven women in five counties, mostly in the Southeast, have filed fraud complaints against Wedgeworth. Online communities have sprung up to help him connect with his potential victims. Some, like Johnson, have spent hours conducting amateur investigations into his whereabouts prior to his arrest in Tennessee.
Johnson combed social media and went on television, but she was unable to locate Wedgeworth after he vanished from her life. She, too, had no idea she had a chance at redemption. Johnson died just a month before Wedgeworth was charged, but her story is almost certain to play a role in the federal case in Tallahassee.
Trapping Tekesia Johnson
Johnson believed she had her path mapped out. She had been cutting and braiding hair for friends and family when they couldn’t afford salons since she was a teenager. She was well aware of the significance of appearance.
Johnson watched as her mother, Jacqueline Brown, lost not only her hair but also her confidence when she was diagnosed with kidney failure. Johnson looked for treatments and styles to help Brown regain control over her hair loss. Some methods yielded positive results for both mother and daughter. Then, in 2016, Brown passed away.
Johnson lost her most ardent supporter, but she gained the courage to take the risk. She left her job as a medical coder to open Perfected Creations, a salon and spa in Jacksonville. Like she had done for her mother in her final moments, she wanted to help others find and boost their confidence. Johnson was ecstatic about the business plan because it marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life. A partner was the only thing that was missing.
Johnson set up a profile on Plenty of Fish to begin dating. The platform is trustworthy and completely free to use. In May 2017, she began messaging a man who identified himself as Brian L. Adams. Adams identified himself as a thoracic surgeon. He appeared to be well-educated, enthusiastic, and cautious. He requested that Johnson FaceTime him to verify her identity. She felt safe because she knew she could trust him. He did, however, inquire about Johnson’s financial situation at one point. For Johnson, this was a red flag. She admitted to Adams that she was bankrupt. She assumed that if he was a con artist, he would quickly lose interest. He didn’t do it.
Adams stated that he was looking for someone with whom he could settle down and marry. He explained to Johnson that he wanted his future wife to be financially secure, so he offered to help her out by paying off her debts. Johnson received the gesture as a sign that he saw a future for the two of them. Within a few days of their relationship beginning, Adams sent her more than $20,000 for her mortgage.
Scammer Claims He’s Being Generous
Johnson was 46 years old, a single mother of two children, and had recently suffered a loss. Despite her reservations about Adams’ generosity, she gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all, she, too, was looking for a place to call home. Then he requested a favor from her.
In exchange for paying off her credit card balance and mortgage, he requested that Johnson deposit money into separate bank accounts. He also requested a Rolex watch from Johnson. He promised to reimburse her if she could afford it. As a result, the purchase could help her establish credit. On paper, it appears to be in her favor. He couched it as yet another act of kindness.
Johnson, a skeptic, was hesitant to finance a Rolex. She did, however, have some faith in him. She spent $3,000 on two Movado watches from a lesser-known brand. Adams met Johnson at the St. Johns Town Center Mall in Jacksonville to pick up the watches she had ordered. Her fears were realized at that point. Adams’ attempts to pay off her bills had bounced due to insufficient funds, according to Johnson’s bank. She looked him up on the internet. Adams’ mugshots under the name Brian Wedgeworth were discovered after a thorough search.
Wedgeworth had previously served time in DeKalb County, Georgia, for similar fraud charges. Wedgeworth pleaded guilty to forgery in the first and third degrees, identity fraud, and driving with a suspended license in June 2014, three years before he met Johnson.
Johnson, embarrassed, blamed herself
Her bank blocked the fraudulent payments, but she never received the $3,000 she had spent on watches. Johnson fell behind on her bills and had to postpone her business plans by months due to the high cost of the watches.
She told her 25-year-old daughter, Tiffany Maximin, about her experience as a cautionary tale. Johnson did her best to alert others. She went on local TV news and shared her story on social media because she knew how easy it was to lose a lot of money. Despite her best efforts, more victims were found.
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Anatomy Of Brian Wedgeworth’s Scam
Wedgeworth’s tactics, according to Johnson, are not unique, but they can be effective.
He claimed to be connected to at least eight reputable medical institutions. According to court records, his scams allegedly spanned at least ten dating platforms and enlisted the help of nine banks via false checks and wire transfers. Scams that succeed are built on deception and trust. Wedgeworth gained trust, according to prosecutors, by meeting women in person, offering to pay off their debts, and even sending fake digital presentations to authenticate his doctor or surgeon persona.
His behavior is similar to that of other well-known and international con artists.
Shimon Heyada Hayut, who used the Tinder handle Simon Leviev and was the subject of the Netflix documentary “Tinder Swindler,” had a similar strategy.
Victims Hesitant to Tell Stories
His alleged victims were hesitant to share their stories, but police reports detailed their accounts. They reveal Wedgeworth’s target demographic, his use of defrauded funds, and his scamming strategy, according to prosecutors. All seven were Black women aged 31 to 43 who lived in middle-class households with annual incomes ranging from $40,000 to $126,000.
Wedgeworth’s accusers claim that rather than impersonating someone else and targeting people over 60, he targeted women in his own age group and used his own likeness. Only his intentions were hidden, not his face or his voice. Apart from checks and wire transfers, Wedgeworth’s indictment stated that he defrauded his victims of luxury goods such as Rolex watches and other high-end items. Francesca Gervascio-Franzen, an administrator of the Beware Romance Scammers Facebook group, says, “Fraud is the best job in the world.” “He’ll just do it again,” says the narrator.
In the last year, Gervascio-Franzen has communicated with hundreds of scam victims through the Facebook group. There are over 8,500 members on the page, and thousands of posts exposing scammers. Gervascio-Franzen has been a victim of a con. She encourages everyone in the group to report their fraudsters to local and federal authorities, and she walks others through the process. She claims that the majority of con artists are never caught.
Scamming people in love is becoming more common. The chances of conviction are usually slim, and the potential profits only increase as more people turn to online dating.Scamming people in love is becoming more common. The chances of conviction are usually slim, and the potential profits only increase as more people turn to online dating.
In its annual SEC filings, Match Group reported a 25% increase in total revenue from 2020 to 2021, which is even higher than the 17 percent increase from 2019 to 2020. As revenue grows by the millions each year, so does the number of members and, as a result, the likelihood of scams.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the number of romance scam victims nationwide increased from 18,493 in pre-pandemic 2018 to 23,751 in 2020, according to an annual report. When the chances of serving serious time are slim, having unlimited funds and luxuries can be especially appealing.
Wedgeworth is facing 46 charges, according to case reports obtained from the Alabama Trial Court System. He admitted to 13 of them and pleaded guilty to all of them. In Jefferson County, guilty pleas have been entered as far back as 1996 and as recently as 2009. Identity theft, forgery, possession of a fraudulent credit card, fraudulent checks, and other white collar crimes are among his charges. Wedgeworth rarely served his full sentence despite pleading guilty to 13 charges in Alabama alone.
Actions To Take In A Similar Situation & Avoid Being The Victim Of Casanova Scammer
This was one of the largest dating scams ever, it was essentially a con that cost 30 people Rs 1.3 million. Their financial ambitions were thwarted by a scandal that should have been exposed sooner.
The Global Payback is a fund recovery service that helps people and businesses recover funds that have been stolen. They have specially trained personnel who have recovered funds from bank fraudsters in the past. The “Casanova Scammer” was only able to defraud this large sum of money because of the people’s lack of knowledge and naivety. This was a tinder dating scam that resulted in people losing their jobs and losing their life savings.
Please contact us if you believe you have been defrauded of your funds. At Global Payback, we have specialists who have been specially trained to recover your funds in a simple and timely manner.