Federal investigators said Ganiyu Abayomi Jimoh and Fola Alabi pretended to be U.S. military deployed in Afghanistan to swindle victims out of money.
HOUSTON — You’ve probably heard about online romance scams by con artists pretending to be military heroes. They’ve cheated victims all over the country out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now, two Houston-area scammers are going to federal prison for their roles in similar online scams.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The video above is from February 2022 report on how to avoid online romance scams.
On Monday, a federal judge sentenced Ganiyu Abayomi Jimoh, 30, of Houston, to three years in prison and ordered him to pay over $405,427 in restitution.
Investigators said one of Jimoh’s victims was an 84-year-old man who thought he was sending $13,500 to an online girlfriend.
Last week, a Richmond, Texas man also got three years in prison for his role in an online romance scam and was ordered to pay full restitution and forfeit his home valued at $560,000, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
Many of his victims were women in their 70s and 80s and either widowed or divorced, according to court documents.
The funds were often wired overseas to China and India and some were used to pay Alabi’s mortgage, prosecutors said.
The identities and images of real U.S. military generals were used, federal prosecutors said.
Two real generals in victim impact statements told the court that they continue to be victimized by online romance scams, authorities said.
How to spot a romance scam
- The con artists typically use a fake identity and operate on dating and social media sites.
- They often work quickly to build a relationship and even shower their unsuspecting victims with flowers and gifts to win their trust.
- A lot of these con artists appear to live lavish lifestyles to help convince the victim that they are wealthy.
- Some operate only online, while others wine and dine their victims in person.
- Eventually, they all ask for money. They’ll tug on the victim’s heartstrings by concocting stories about medical emergencies, business deals, or unexpected bills.
- Once they get the money, they vanish and begin hunting their next victim.
Romance scam red flags
- 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 you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- If they try to isolate you from friends and family
- If they request explicit photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, don’t fall for it.
Tips to avoid becoming a victim of romance scams
- Be careful what you post and make it public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Watch out for strangers who contact you on social media. They often create fake profiles with photos of someone else and try to win the victim over by pretending to be a single parent, widow or widower, or member of the military.
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere. If the profiles were recently created and the person doesn’t have many posts or friends, they could be fake.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
- NEVER send money, cryptocurrency, or gift cards to anyone you have 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, stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. You can report scams whether or not you’ve lost money.
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