Complaint: Texas man recruited Mich. resident through dating site for unemployment scheme

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A Texas man is facing federal charges after he is alleged to have fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits and then attempted to funnel them through a Michigan resident he met on a dating site who later became an informant for the FBI.

Abimbola Folaranmi, who also allegedly went by the names of Steve Briggs and Richard Kiley, was arrested recently and faces charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft in relation to the scheme based in Texas and Michigan.

The 51-page criminal complaint unsealed Thursday details how the Texas man allegedly used a Michigan resident he'd met on a dating site to launder funds received from various unemployment agencies. The scheme was only uncovered and the Michigan resident recruited to become an FBI source after a separate Michigan resident told police she'd been pulled into a scheme that involved sending thousands of dollars in cash inside a book to a Birmingham address. 

Folaranmi is among a few dozen people charged in Michigan federal courts in relation to unemployment fraud that ran rampant during the pandemic. 

The FBI became involved in the investigation in March when the Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department contacted Birmingham police and then federal law enforcement about large volumes of unemployment mail from various states going to a Birmingham address. 

A few days earlier, Grosse Pointe Park police interviewed a woman who said she'd received notification in February 2021 that she'd been hired by Franklin Graham's Samaritans Purse, a Christian charitable organization. The notice, according to the complaint, requested that she send the organization the names of five charities. She sent the names and was later notified she'd be sent a donation. 

In March 2021, the woman was mailed a $3,600 check that she was expected to cash and keep $300 for herself, the complaint said. The remaining $3,300 she was instructed to place in a book, wrap the book like a gift and mail it to Richard Kiley in Birmingham. The woman later was informed by her bank that the check was fraudulent and "she was out $3,300."

Officers found Kiley's address was actually owned by the next-door neighbors, who rented the property out. The neighbors told police they knew "something is going on" at the rental and had recently been sent a book with money in it. 

The renter of the home told police he subleases a room to a person the complaint only refers to as the "source." The renter of the home said the "source" received a lot of mail and he brought police some of the letters from unemployment agencies in Michigan, New York, California, Nevada, Illinois and Arizona. Many contained credit and debit cards in various names. 

In all, eight separate unemployment claim accounts were registered at the Birmingham address under Department of Labor records, according to the complaint. 

The "source" living at the Birmingham address told police that he or she met a man named Richard Kiley on the dating site Zoosk about three years prior and had sent him a total of $100,000 over the course of year for "various business purposes," at one point sending $20,000 because Kiley was "stranded in Malaysia and needed money to get home to Michigan."

According to the complaint, the "source" eventually gave Kiley his or her bank account number which Kiley used to deposit money. At some points, the source, at Kiley's behest, would also put mailed checks into the account, take out cash and then mail it to a Steve Briggs in Texas, according to the complaint.

In other cases, the source would "see direct deposits into his/her bank account from various states' unemployment agencies in the names of people he/she does not know," according to the complaint.

The FBI eventually tracked some of the packages the Birmingham "source" was sending to Briggs in Texas and found the unit where it was delivered was occupied by Folaranmi. The FBI monitored packages from the Michigan source to Folaranmi's Texas location for several weeks. 

In June, after FBI had been communicating with the "source" for weeks, the source received a message from Kiley to open a business account at Chase Bank to accept between $600,000 and $800,000.

In July, Kiley sent two envelopes with $15,000 in cash in each and asked the source to keep some and mail the rest to Briggs in Texas. The FBI worked with the Birmingham source to send the cash and track it to Folaranmi, according to the complaint. 

The FBI made contact with at least three people whose names were on unemployment checks sent to the Birmingham address and they denied having made the claims or knowing anything about the scheme.