Irvine romance scammer who claimed to be Navy SEAL took up to $1.5 million
The Irvine man’s claims were numerous: He was a Navy SEAL, owned McDonald’s franchises, ran a chain of gyms, and was a successful businessman and investor, he said.
Ze’Shawn Stanley Campbell’s stories were bound by one common thread: He needed money from those who heard them.
The 35-year-old pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering in a romance scam that ran from April 2014 to April 2020, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.
Campbell defrauded 19 victims, some of whom he developed romantic relationships with, and laundered his profits, according to his plea agreement.
More Californians report being victimized by romance scams than any other state’s residents. Here are some tips to protect yourself from fraudsters.
One victim gave him a check for $61,452 after he promised to invest the money in bitcoin on her behalf, the agreement stated.
Instead, he used the money to support his lifestyle, including for payments on a BMW and Mercedes-Benz that he leased under a different victim’s name.
“Having convinced his victims of his bona fides, Campbell induced them to provide money and property to him, claiming that he would use the victims’ money and property to support his businesses, fund investments made on the victims’ behalf and pay his purported medical bills,” prosecutors said. “Rather than use the victims’ money as he promised, however, Campbell used it to pay personal expenses and to buy luxury items for himself.”
According to the plea agreement, Campbell also ran a wire fraud scheme from April 2014 to January 2018.
Fifty-six people were arrested Friday in connection with an alleged $5-million stolen check scheme targeting hundreds of Californians.
“Specifically, defendant would obtain the names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and the personal identifying information of real people,” court documents said. “Defendant would then use this personal identifying information of real people ... to obtain loans and credit cards from the victim financial institutions.”
As part of the plea agreement, Campbell admitted to defrauding the victims out of at least $250,000 and up to $1.5 million, prosecutors said. Of the 19 victims, 10 were people and nine were companies.
In a statement to The Times, Campbell’s attorney, Pat Harris, called the U.S. attorney’s office’s news release on the guilty plea “misleading and entirely inappropriate for a group that regularly touts itself for ‘promoting justice.’”
“It is concerning that, prior to all information coming out in front of the judge at a sentencing hearing, they release a statement patting themselves on the back and noting he faces 30 years while not mentioning the government agreed in the plea to not ask for a sentence of more than 3-4 years,” Harris said. “This fits into an ongoing pattern where the [U.S. Department of Justice] press releases seem more concerned with their own self aggrandizement than actual justice.”
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9, prosecutors said. Campbell faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison.
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