He pretended to be a doctor on dating apps and scammed US$1.3mil from women, US feds say

Wedgeworth convinced the victims that he could help them financially by paying off various bills, over time gaining access to their banking and loan information, prosecutors say. — Photo by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash

A man who defrauded more than 30 women by pretending he was a doctor on Internet dating platforms was sentenced to nine years in federal prison, Florida prosecutors say.

Brian Brainard Wedgeworth, 47, began the scheme in October 2016 while in prison in Georgia from a 2014 fraud conviction, according to court documents.

Though it’s not clear how he had access to dating apps while incarcerated, Wedgeworth developed romantic relationships with women from across the country on sites like Match.com and EliteSingles.com. One was a doctor in Tallahassee, who he moved in with after his release in February 2017 and later married, investigators say.

Wedgeworth, who was dubbed the “Casanova Scammer” by authorities and news outlets, was never a licensed medical professional, having only attended the University of Montevallo in Alabama for two semesters without completing a degree, according to federal authorities.

But from 2016 to March 2021, he continuously met women online and told them — using at least 13 different aliases — that he went to universities like Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Duke and was a doctor at institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to court documents.

Wedgeworth convinced the victims that he could help them financially by paying off various bills, over time gaining access to their banking and loan information, prosecutors say.

He would make payments to the women’s credit card companies, mortgage lenders and student loan providers that never cleared and then purport that he was the one in need of money, according to court documents. Authorities say he wooed his lovers into wiring cash, writing checks and buying luxury items like Rolex and Cartier watches that he would later pawn off.

In total, his scheme caused a loss of more than US$1.3mil (RM5.85mil) from over 30 victims, according to court documents.

Wedgeworth pleaded guilty to twenty-five counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering on May 19, 2022. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and was ordered to pay US$1,161,325.82 (RM5.2mil) in restitution Thursday, Sept. 1, by US District Judge Robert Hinkle. That sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release.

Wedgeworth’s lawyer declined McClatchy News’ request for comment.

The defendant apologised during his sentencing hearing in Tallahassee, WCTV reported.

“This case has been a tremendous eye-opener,” he said in court.

Compared to other Internet crimes, romance scams ended in one of the highest amounts of financial losses — in 2020 more than 23,000 victims reported over US$605mil (RM2.7bil) in losses, according to the FBI. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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