A man who convinced 30 women he was a doctor and subsequently defrauded them of a total of $1.3 million was sentenced to 9 years in federal prison.
Brian Brainard Wedgeworth, 47, formerly of Tallahassee, Florida, and Center Point, Alabama, used more than six different online dating services and 13 aliases to meet women, gain their trust, and take their money.
“Our citizens should not be preyed upon by fraudsters who steal through overtures of affection,” said Jason R. Coody, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, in a Department of Justice press release.
Wedgeworth, who was nicknamed the “Casanova Scammer” by authorities and the media, pled guilty to 25 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. According to the Federal Trade Commission, losses from similar “romance scams” last year skyrocketed to more than six times what they were in 2017.
Wedgeworth started the scam from a Georgia prison in 2016, according to the Sacramento Bee, where he was serving time for a previous case of fraud. He accessed dating apps like Hinge, Plenty of Fish, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Christian Mingle, and began romantic relationships, going by one of 13 names including Dr. Anthony Watkins, Dr. Brian Mims, and Dr. Brian Anderson. The women he targeted — including an actual doctor — were from Florida, California, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Maryland.
Wedgeworth even went so far as to post photos of himself dressed as a doctor to his social media profiles, and to forge a University of Pennsylvania diploma for a bachelor of science degree in biology, the Sacramento Bee reported. He also carried a business card with his false credentials. According to court documents, he claimed at various times to have attended or worked at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Duke University, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
After seducing the women, Wedgeworth offered to pay off their debt and then collected their personal information, “paying” off the loans with closed bank accounts. When the women were notified that payments were made on their behalf, but before the payments cleared, he’d ask the women for cash or checks for various reasons.
According to his indictment from October 2021, “these false stories included that he did not have the funds necessary to pay the expenses for his (fictitious) medical practice because he paid off the women’s debts, and that his bank accounts were frozen due to a medical malpractice lawsuit.”
If the women didn’t have the money, Wedgeworth would ask them to take out loans and give him the funds, the indictment said. He used the victims’ money to buy jewelry, Rolex watches, and even college football game tickets. He would increase the women’s credit limits, get new lines of credit, and withdraw cash advances on the women’s credit and debit card accounts.
When one victim discovered that he was the “Casanova Scammer,” Wedgeworth tried to convince her that she was wrong. He said he was working undercover for the federal government to catch criminal correctional officers, which was why he had been incarcerated. The “Casanova Scammer” news was just a part of his cover story, he said.