An Orange County man admitted to taking advantage of ten people in a massive romance scam that saw him steal upwards of $1.5 million.
Ze’Shawn Stanley Campbell, 35, of Irvine, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering for the brazen scheme.
From April 2014 to April 2020, Campbell posed as a wealthy entrepreneur who claimed to have multiple successful business ventures.
According to the United States Department of Justice, Campbell told his victims he was a millionaire who operated several businesses, including McDonald’s franchises, a security company and a chain of gyms in Texas. He also told his victims he was a successful real estate and cryptocurrency investor who served overseas in the United States Military.
He befriended several people and began romantic relationships with some, the DOJ said, and convinced them to send him money and other items to help him pay outstanding medical bills, or that he promised to invest on their behalf.
In reality, he used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, paying off his own debts and making big-ticket purchases, including a BMW and a Mercedes-Benz that he leased under the name of one of his victims. Another victim was scammed out of more than $60,000 that Campbell promised to invest in Bitcoin, but was instead used to make lease payments on the vehicles.
All told, he scammed at least ten people and nine businesses, the DOJ said. He admitted to defrauding at least $250,000 from the 19 victims, with some estimates going as high as $1.5 million.
As part of his plea, Campbell faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. He is due back in court on Jan. 9, 2023 to hear his sentence.
The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Major Frauds Section.