by Riley Hicks
Fayette man bilked out of thousands in elaborate online scheme
A Fayette County resident tried to help who he thought was a woman in need, but he ended up losing thousands of dollars in less than year to due her schemes. What started with a Facebook conversation, ended with him reporting a string of frauds to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.
In January 2017, someone claiming to be a woman named Jonnie Whatley initiated a conversation with the man on Facebook. Whatley told him she was from Ghana and was in a graduate program at a college in Los Angeles. In February, she asked for money for rent, food, and her visa that was about to expire. The victim sent $1,000, and the requests escalated.
Whatley said she needed more money because she wanted to go back home, and the man sent her $10,000. In July, Whatley said her father had passed away and left her $6 million, but she needed $40,000 to receive the inheritance. The victim went to Bank of America and requested a home equity loan of $50,000. Unable to send it all at once, he sent it in increments of $2,500. He gave the bank account number to Whatley and a man named David who would make payments and then take the money back out. That account would be closed due to fraudulent activity.
He sent Whatley another $4,000 and also offered access to his credit card. The victim now owes $21,000 on that credit card.
Recently, the victim claimed an agent from the FBI called him stating his name was Richard Tripp. Tripp said he could help return the man’s money back and connected him with a lawyer named Richard Awuni. The only thing the man needed to do was send Awuni another $2,500 to pay for his services. Attempting to put money into a bank account, the victim noticed the account was closed due to fraud. It was at this point the man filed a report with Fayette County Sheriff’s Department.
The man produced receipts showing he sent other people money. In two transactions he sent a total of $32,000 to one person and $20,000 to another in early November, totaling to $42,000 in a span of four months.
The 53-old victim mentioned he had a difficult time remembering what he was doing.
Anyone with information on this case or others, is asked to call the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office at 770-716-4780.