A Coon Rapids man is sentenced to three years in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and required to pay $1,356,995 in restitution for targeting elderly victims in a scheme to help them find "romance."
Prosecutors say 43-year old Solomon Wilfred facilitated a social media scheme where he and others posed as someone else, even a senior U.S. diplomat or military official, and forged romantic connections with the victims.
Eventually they would coerce the victims into sending large sums of money for a made up problem or situation, ultimately totaling more than $1.3 million.
Authorities say Wilfred also made personal connections with some, sending romantic cards, small trinkets, and even wedding rings. The scheme took place June 2020 through about March 2021.
"It was very important to our office that he wasn't only picking up the packages and dispersing the money," says Jordan Sing, Assistant U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis. "He actually mailed some of these victims romantic greeting cards that had things like wedding rings and other romantic items in them that made the scheme seem much more real."
They say Wilfred received more than 400 packages of money from victims, utilizing six post office boxes. In total, Wilfred received over $1.3 million in fraud proceeds during the scheme. Wilfred kept some of the proceeds for his personal benefit and disbursed the remainder of the proceeds to other scheme participants.
"So it's really preying on the loneliness of these people, which is what makes these cases so sad," Sing tells WCCO. "And they convinced them that they're the only person that's important in their life, or that they care about them. Then over time, they start asking them for money."
Occasionally, the scheme participants would even introduce the victims to a purported third-party intermediary who would corroborate the false persona’s story and assist in defrauding the victims.
Wilfred pleaded guilty on June 15, 2023, to one count of mail fraud.