PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Texas man has been arrested for what authorities say was his role in an online romance scam in which women were cheated out of a total of nearly $1 million by someone pretending to be an Army general, federal prosecutors in Rhode Island said Wednesday.
Fola Alabi, also known as Folayemi Alabi, 51, was arrested at his Richmond, Texas, home Tuesday and charged with wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha.
No defense attorney was listed in online court records.
Alabi or an alleged accomplice pretending to be a general stationed overseas befriended women on social media on various dates last year, gradually gaining their trust by feigning romantic or personal interest, prosecutors said.
The women were asked to send money to the fake general to help ship his belongings back to the U.S., according to court documents. They were asked to send the money to companies in Texas controlled by Alabi or someone associated with him, at his home address, prosecutors said.
Many of the women were in their 70s and 80s and either widowed or divorced, according to an affidavit in the case. They were from Rhode Island, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, Idaho and South Dakota.
The Arizona woman lost $334,000, according to the affidavit. 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.
The 78-year-old 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 local police, authorities said.
In a related case, Alabi is charged with cheating a Florida woman in an online investment opportunity scam by pretending to be her brother, according to the affidavit.
He was charged under a 1994 law that provides for more severe penalties for fraud that victimizes people over 55.