Santa Monica Man to Plead Guilty to Running Online Romance Scam

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A previously convicted Santa Monica man is expected to plead guilty today to a fraud charge for a romance scam in which he deceived women into investing in his sham companies, only to take the money and spend it on himself.

Antonio Mariot Wilson, who uses the names Dr. Tony Mariot and Brice Carrington, has agreed to enter his plea to one federal count of wire fraud at a hearing by videoconference in Los Angeles federal court.

Wilson, 57, will face up to 20 years in federal prison at sentencing, prosecutors said.

Between May 2015 and October 2018, Wilson met four women on Bumble and other dating apps and convinced them to engage in romantic relationships with him before conning them into giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his purported businesses, according to his plea agreement.

One of Wilson's victims, whom he met at a gym where he worked as a manager, was actress Jenifer Lewis, whose credits include the television series, “Black-ish.''

To create a false impression of legitimacy and prestige, Wilson falsely claimed to be a Navy SEAL, an Oxford University graduate and an Oxford professor teaching biblical antiquities at UCLA, according to federal prosecutors.

Relying on the intimacy he created in his victims through these false impressions, Wilson induced his victims to invest in one of his two companies: Ultimate FX, which he claimed was a sound design company, and 2nd Life, a purported software business designed to provide animated instruction on applying for government benefits, court papers show.

Wilson admitted conning victims to invest in these companies by making false statements, such as claiming that the ABC television network and EA Sports video game developer had used Ultimate FX for their shows and games. Wilson also falsely claimed that investors -- real people whose identities he used without authorization -- had valued 2nd Life at more than $30 million and wanted to invest in the company. Wilson also falsely stated that 2nd Life had a present valuation of $3.2 million, court documents state.

In reality, prosecutors said, Wilson stole the victims' money and used it to fund his own lifestyle and pay his own personal expenses, concealing the fact that he previously pleaded guilty to carrying out a very similar scheme to defraud Ultimate FX investors.

Wilson served a four-year term in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to wire fraud and tax evasion charges in the Northern District of California, court documents show.

Wilson also admitted in his plea agreement that he sold unregistered 2nd Life securities by distributing “shareholder agreements'' and “stock purchase agreements'' to the victims. After accepting his victims' funds, Wilson used the money to pay off his credit card debt, pay his rent and buy luxury items.

Through this scheme, Wilson received a total of $387,000 from his victims, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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