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Maryland man pleads guilty to stealing $276K in online dating scams

RICHMOND, Va. — A Maryland man has pleaded guilty in Virginia to defrauding women whom he met through online dating websites, using phony identities to dupe them into sending him money.

Eugene Johnson Jr., 39, of Leonardtown, stole a total of more than $276,00 from at least eight women, according to a court filing that accompanied his guilty plea on Friday to a mail fraud charge.

Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is scheduled to sentence Johnson on Sept. 17.

Johnson used false names and identities, such as posing as a U.S. Marine with a son whose mother had died, to strike up romantic relationships with his victims and solicit money from them “for various pressing financial needs,” Friday’s court filing says.

“Although his claims varied, they generally involved some form of car, financial, legal, or health problems about which Johnson claimed to be very emotional,” it adds.

Plenty of Fish, a Canadian online dating service, was one of the platforms that Johnson used to contact women and convince them to wire him money. He often texted the women from different phone numbers to pose as people who could corroborate his stories, including his mother and law enforcement and military officers.

“None of these women would have given the defendant money if she had known that he was not who he claimed to be, did not intend to pursue a romantic relationship with her, would not spend the money on the expenses for which she had sent it, and could not and did not intend to repay her as claimed,” the court filing says.

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