WESTERLY — A Texas man has pleaded guilty to taking part in an online-based scam that laundered more than $1.6 million in proceeds from seniors in at least 11 states, including a resident of Westerly.
Fola Alabi, who also goes by the alias Folayemi Alabi, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Providence to charges of conspiracy and money laundering. According to court documents, he admitted to a federal judge that he created companies and opened bank accounts that were used to launder the money.
“To carry out these schemes, a member of the conspiracy befriended unsuspecting seniors online, often posing as a general in the U.S. military who is serving overseas,” U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a press release. “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, 52, of Richmond, Texas, received the money and either deposited or directed that it be deposited into one of several bank accounts that he controlled, officials said. He then quickly withdrew or transferred the funds to other accounts.
Among Alabi’s victims is a Rhode Island widow who was contacted by a member of the conspiracy claiming to be a “General Miller,” purportedly a four-star general, who convinced the victim to provide $60,000 to finance shipment of his personal belongings to the U.S. At “General Miller’s” direction,” officials said a check was made payable to Full Circle Import Exports, a company created by Alabi, and mailed to Alabi’s residence in Texas.
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.
According to court documents, in a cellphone seized from Alabi during his arrest in May 2022, agents discovered photographs and videos of packages containing cash and checks received by Alabi from victims of the scam.
The loss attributed to the romance scams perpetrated by Alabi and members of his group is $1,640,421.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Alabi will forfeit assets derived from his criminal conduct. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25. The defendant’s sentences will be determined by a federal district judge after consideration of the U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI, U.S. Secret Service and Homeland Security Investigations.