PROVIDENCE – A Texas man who participated in a conspiracy that fraudulently used the identities and images of two United States military Generals, and others, to defraud seniors in at least eleven states, including Rhode Island, of at least $1.5 million through online romance scams, was sentenced today to more than three years in federal prison, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
Fola Alabi, 52, of Richmond, Texas, previously admitted to a federal judge that he created companies and opened bank accounts that were used to launder the proceeds realized from the romance scams. According to court filings, the funds laundered by Alabi were often wired overseas to China and India.
According to information presented to the court, a member of the conspiracy befriended unsuspecting seniors online, often fraudulently posing as a General in the U.S. military who was serving overseas. The conspirator feigned a personal, and sometimes romantic, interest in his victims, and convinced them to send substantial sums of money, usually in the form of bank checks or cash, to addresses and companies in Texas that were controlled by Alabi. Alabi received the money and either deposited it or directed that it be deposited into one of several bank accounts that he controlled. He quickly withdrew or transferred the funds to other accounts, including some that were overseas, and used the funds to pay the mortgage of his house.
Among Alabi’s victims is a Rhode Island widow who was contacted by a member of the conspiracy falsely claiming to be a “General Miller,” a four-star General, who convinced the victim to provide $60,000 to finance shipment of his personal belongings to the United States. At the fraudster’s direction, a check was made payable a company created by Alabi and mailed to Alabi’s Texas residence. The victim was prepared to send an additional significant sum of money to the purported “General Miller,” when it was determined by her bank and the Westerly Police Department that she was likely the victim of fraud.
In brief victim impact statements delivered to the court, the two actual U.S. military Generals whose identities were used as part of the scheme acknowledged that they continue to be victimized by online romance scams through the use of their likeness and identities. One of the Generals urged seniors to be diligent and to be aware of the significant potential of being scammed.
Alabi, arrested in May 2022, pleaded guilty on January 13, 2023, to conspiracy and money laundering. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to thirty-seven months in federal prison to be followed by three years of federal supervised release; pay restitution to identified victims of the romance scams totaling $1,495,421; and to forfeit funds contained in a bank account that he controlled containing $31,773, and to forfeit his Texas residence which was valued at the time of his arrest at $560,000.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ly T. Chin and Sara Miron Bloom.
The matter was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service, FBI, United States Secret Service, and Homeland Security Investigations.
United States Attorney Cunha thanks the Westerly, RI, and Prescott Valley, AZ, Police Departments; Texas Department of Public Safety; West Virginia State Police; the Santa Clara, CA, County District Attorney’s Office; and Defense Criminal Investigative Service for their assistance in the investigation of this matter.