Fake millionaire tycoon gets prison for online dating scam

By LARRY NEUMEISTERMarketsAssociated Press

A man who posed along the East Coast as a millionaire oil tycoon to scam women on internet dating sites out of hundreds of thousands of dollars was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain described John Edward Taylor as sick and dangerous as she ordered him to serve three years and 10 months in prison in addition to 14 months he served after a related Virginia conviction.

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The judge said 16 of Taylor's two dozen victims from New York to Atlanta lost from several hundred dollars to more than $50,000 after encountering his "quest for money, respect, admiration and control." She said some victims, who lost a total of more than $290,000, were left financially ruined while others had credit ratings ruined or were left suffering from fear, depression, anxiety and concern for their personal safety.

The scam ended after a married couple who met Taylor at a Philadelphia Phillies game they attended with their children on April 25, 2015, reported him to the FBI.

The father, identified in court only as D.S., was among six victims who spoke at the sentencing as Taylor drooped his head at the defense table.

The father said Taylor, 48, boasted he was a billionaire oil tycoon as he led the family, including a child with special needs, onto a special elevator and down to first-row seats, where everyone from ushers to spectators gushed what a good guy Taylor was.

Only later, the father said, did the family learn Taylor "was a fraud, a fake and a phony."

The father said his family, which lost a few hundred dollars, was duped by "a very, very charismatic man."

"It's easy to fall under his spell," the father said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Rebold requested a meaningful prison sentence, saying Taylor had more than 10 past contacts with the criminal justice system.

Rebold said Taylor from 2009 to 2016 boasted he was a millionaire businessman with oil and land interests in North Dakota to victims on online matchmaking and networking websites such as Match.com, eHarmony, Craigslist and Seeking Arrangement.

Sometimes, Taylor expressed interest in hiring the victims to work on a new business venture while others got a pitch for a romantic or personal relationship, the prosecutor said.

Later, Taylor would sometimes steal the identities of victims to make purchases, transfer funds, open new accounts or use their credit cards, he said.

Once confronted, Taylor would threaten to transmit sexually explicit images he had coerced from victims to their employers if they tried to collect debts, Rebold said.

Defense attorney Julia Gatto requested leniency, saying Taylor, in a "mental health crisis," attempted suicide in prison and tried to disfigure himself by carving writings into his arm. She said a long prison sentence "could kill Mr. Taylor."

Taylor, his left forearm wrapped in cloth, choked up as he apologized to victims he never looked at. He called himself a liar and a "bragging, arrogant thief."

But he added he had found "new morals" and would not repeat his crimes.