Scammer Sentenced

A man who bilked people out of more than $1 million by falsely claiming he could help book a Pharrell concert for a South Korean steel company and targeting women in online dating scams was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison.

Photo: Joel Ryan / Invision / AP
iTunes Festival, Roundhouse, London, UK

Sigismond Segbefia, 29, is a native of Ghana but lived in Silver Spring, Maryland at the time of the scams. He was arrested in New York but was prosecuted by federal authorities in Pittsburgh because one of his biggest dating scam victims was a Pennsylvania woman he bilked out of more than $222,000 by using the name and address of an unwitting Pittsburgh-area postal worker.

Segbefia, who pleaded guilty in December, must pay nearly $1.2 million in restitution. He has agreed to be deported after serving his prison term for aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

In pleading guilty to the dating scams, Segbefia acknowledged his role in the unrelated crime of bilking Dosko Co. out of $375,000 by pretending to promote a show by Pharrell Williams, behind such hits as “Happy” and “Blurred Lines.” The company was planning to expand into entertainment to diversify its revenue.

Nobody else has been charged in that scheme, though Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci told Senior U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond that Segbefia “was not a leader in that fraud.” The scam remains under investigation, but the other people involved are believed to live overseas, authorities said.

Segbefia ripped off his Pennsylvania online dating victim by pretending to be a 55-year-old Australian who owned a western Pennsylvania medical supply business. He persuaded the woman to send him money by claiming he was having financial and legal difficulties, including trying to ship some devices from his company to England. He used the name and address of the postal worker as part of that ruse.

Another dating victim, a Colorado woman, wired Segbefia more than $505,000 between August 2014 and January 2015. He met that woman on a dating website by pretending to be a 51-year-old Army sergeant in Afghanistan and used pictures he found online of a real soldier to make the scam seem more credible.

In that con, Segbefia told the woman he needed money because the United Nations took control of his bank accounts during his assignment and he would repay her later, according to the indictment. He “preyed on lonely women and was able to obtain tremendous amounts of money from them,” the judge said.

Segbefia had six other online dating victims, who lost a total of $85,000 before catching onto his schemes.

“I pray to God to forgive me,” Segbefia told the judge. “I should have known better.”

Public defender Akin Adepoju said Segbefia’s remorse “is genuine.”