Texas

Houston man pleads guilty to involvement in $1.6 million romance scam

Federal prosecutors said Fola Alabi, 52, also known as Folaemi Alabi, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges.

RICHMOND, Texas. A 52-year-old Richmond man pleaded guilty to his role in the romantic scam in which women from across the country were scammed out of about $1.6 million by someone who often pretended to be a US Army general, Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island announced on Monday.

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

EDITOR’S NOTE. The video above is from a February 2022 report on how to avoid romance scams online.

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.

The money was then transferred to bank accounts that he also controlled, prosecutors said, and were then quickly withdrawn or transferred.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.

How to recognize a love scam

  • The scammers usually use fake personal details and operate on dating sites and social networks.
  • They often work quickly to build relationships and even shower their unsuspecting victims with flowers and gifts to gain their trust.
  • Many of these scammers live luxurious lifestyles to help convince the victim that they are rich.
  • Some operate only online, while others treat their victims in person.
  • In the end, everyone is asking for money. They hurt the victim’s innermost feelings by making up stories about medical emergencies, business deals, or unexpected bills.
  • As soon as they receive the money, they disappear and start hunting for their next victim.

Red flags of cheating in romantic relationships

  • Beware if someone seems too perfect
  • They quickly ask you to communicate directly
  • If they promise to meet in person but come up with excuses to avoid it. If for some reason you haven’t met the person after a few months, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • If they try to isolate you from friends and family
  • If they ask for explicit photos or financial information, which can later be used to extort you.
  • If someone you’ve met online needs your bank account information to deposit money, don’t fall for it.

Tips for Avoiding Romance Scams

  • Be careful what you post and make it public on the internet. Fraudsters may use information posted on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Beware of strangers who contact you on social media. They often create fake profiles with other people’s photos and try to win over the victim by pretending to be a single parent, a widow or widower, or a member of the military.
  • Explore a person’s photo and profile using an online search to see if the image, name, or data has been used elsewhere. If the profiles were created recently and the person has few posts or friends, they may be fake.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
  • NEVER send money, cryptocurrency, or gift cards to anyone you’ve only communicated with online or by phone, even if you think you’re madly in love.
  • Finally, if you suspect an online relationship is a scam, immediately end all contact and file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. You can report fraud whether or not you have lost money.



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