Fort Bend County man pleads guilty to involvement in $1.6 million romance scam

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — A Fort Bend County man pleaded guilty to his role in a romantic scam in which women from across the country were scammed totaling about $1.6 million by someone who often pretended to be a general US army.

Fola Alabi, 52, also known as Folaemi Alabi, last week pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, federal prosecutors said in a statement Monday.

Someone would often pose as a general stationed abroad, strike up friendships with women online, and then gradually gain their trust by feigning romantic or personal interest, prosecutors said.

The women, often in their 70s and 80s, widowed or divorced, were persuaded to send cash or checks to addresses and companies controlled by Alabie, who lived in Richmond, near Houston.

According to prosecutors, the money was transferred to bank accounts he also controlled and then quickly withdrawn or transferred.

Federal agents who searched Alaby’s mobile phone found photos and videos of cash and check packages he received from some of the victims, prosecutors said.

The victims were from Rhode Island, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, Idaho and South Dakota, authorities said.

According to an affidavit filed in the case, the Arizona woman lost $334,000. According to the affidavit, she “felt ashamed, embarrassed and guilty at being lied to” and as a result did not have enough money to buy food or pay her bills.

A Rhode Island woman sent a check for $60,000 and was about to send another $240,000, but her bank thought she might be the victim of a scam, blocked her account and contacted local police, authorities said.

Sentencing is set for April 25.

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