Richmond man pleads guilty to role in $1.6M national romance scam targeting divorced women

The victims were from Rhode Island, Tennessee, N. Carolina, California, W. Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, Idaho & S. Dakota.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023
How Zelle scams work and how to protect yourself
It took just a few minutes of clever manipulation for scammers to clean out Marcas Miles' bank account using Zelle.

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island -- A Texas man has pleaded guilty to his role in a romance scam in which women from across the nation were cheated out of a total of about $1.6 million by someone often pretending to be a U.S. Army general.

The video above is about how scammers used Zelle to clean out one man's bank account.

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

According to prosecutors, someone often posing as a general stationed overseas befriended women online, then gradually gained their trust by feigning romantic or personal interest.

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

The money was then deposited into bank accounts he also controlled, prosecutors said, before being quickly withdrawn or transferred.

Federal agents who searched Alabi's cellphone found photographs and videos of packages containing cash and checks he had received from some victims, prosecutors said.

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

An Arizona woman lost $334,000, according to an affidavit filed in the case. She "felt shame, embarrassment, and guilt over being scammed" and did not have enough money for food or to pay bills as a result, according to the affidavit.

A Rhode Island woman sent a check for $60,000 and was going to send an additional $240,000, but her bank determined that she might be a victim of fraud, put a hold on her account and contacted police, authorities said.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 25.