Texas Man Admits Role in Scamming Seniors in Rhode Island and Elsewhere in Online Romance Scams

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney’s Office

District of Rhode Island


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, January 16, 2023

PROVIDENCE –  Fola Alabi, aka Folayemi Alabi, 52, of Richmond, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Providence to charges of conspiracy and money laundering, admitting to a federal judge that he created companies and opened bank accounts that were used to launder more than $1.6 million in proceeds bilked from seniors in at least eleven states, including Rhode Island, in online romance scams, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

To carry out these schemes, a member of the conspiracy befriended unsuspecting seniors online, often posing as a General in the U.S. military serving overseas. 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 received the money and either deposited or directed that it be deposited into one of several bank accounts that he controlled.  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 United States. At the purported “General Miller’s” direction, 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 at the time of his arrest in May 2022, federal agents discovered photographs and videos of packages containing cash and checks received by Alabi from victims of the scam.

According to a plea agreement filed in this matter, for purposes of sentencing, the loss attributed to the romance scams perpetrated by Alabi and members of the conspiracy is $1,640,421. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Alabi will forfeit assets derived from his criminal conduct, to include his Texas residence and $31,773.22 contained in a bank account.

Alabi is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25, 2023. 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 case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ly T. Chin and Sara Bloom.

The matter was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service, FBI, United States Secret Service, and Homeland Security Investigations.

United States Attorney Cunha thanks the Westerly, RI, and Prescott Valley, AZ, Police Departments; Texas Department of Public Safety; West Virginia State Police; the Santa Clara, CA, County District Attorney’s Office; and Defense Criminal Investigative Service for their assistance in the investigation of this matter.

Ammerman Appointed to Albion-Homer United Way Board

Virgie Ammerman was recently appointed to the Albion-Homer United Way Board. She joins other community board members to oversee grant funds made to local non-profits. 

Ammerman is the new CEO/president of the Albion Economic Development Corporation. She recently moved to Homer to be closer to family. 

Raised in Albion Ammerman has had a career in public and private accounting.  For the last 10 years Ammerman has been serving non-profit organizations and government agencies involved in housing, community/economic development, food insecurity and mental health.  

She holds degrees/fellowships from Kellogg Community College, Spring Arbor University, Grand Valley State University, George Washington University, Western Michigan University and Michigan State University. 

Ammerman said, “ I was raised in Albion and joyfully return to serve the Albion area community both in my professional and volunteer life. I look forward to being an active participant in both Albion and Homer.”

“ I have four granddaughters and three grown children living in Adrian, Homer and Portage. I also have a mother and brother in the area and look forward to spending more family time with all of them, “ she stated.

Ammerman joins other board members Carolyn Amos, Donisha Brewer, Chris Burdette, Art Kale, Michael Leskowich, Isabell Nazar, Eddie Williams and Shane Williamson.

Albion-Homer United Way’s commitment is to help fund non-profit programs through grants. On-going donations throughout the year are needed for funding these efforts. 

According to AHUW Executive Director Marcia Starkey there are several good reasons to donate to the local United Way including that donations fund Albion and Homer specific programs and funding decisions are made by a local board. Donor lists are never shared with other agencies and payroll deductions make donating easier. Donations can be mailed at any time to AHUW P.O. Box 55, Albion, MI 49224, made on-line at www.albionhomeruw.org or by contacting Starkey at 517-499-2563. 

Connecticut Man Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Fentanyl on the Darknet

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Eastern District of Virginia


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Winsted, Connecticut, man pleaded guilty today to participating in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl over the darknet.

According to court documents, from at least April 2020 through February 2021, Colby John Kopp, 23, and his co-conspirators used darknet marketplaces to conduct drug trafficking business. Kopp created, maintained, and controlled darknet marketplace accounts to further the Connecticut-based fentanyl distribution operation. As a darknet marketplace vendor, Kopp and other members of the conspiracy used the moniker “MadHatterPharma” to engage in the sale of counterfeit pressed pills containing fentanyl that the conspirators pressed themselves and then shipped to customers all over the country, including in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Kopp is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael Tucker is prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:22-cr-109.

Military Contractor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging

A Texas military contractor pleaded guilty on Jan. 12 to rigging bids on public military contracts in the state of Texas.

A Texas military contractor pleaded guilty on Jan. 12 to rigging bids on public military contracts in the state of Texas.

According to court documents, Aaron Stephens, 53, conspired with others to rig bids on certain government contracts from May 2013 to January 2018 in order to give the false impression of competition and to secure government payments in excess of $17.2 million. The plea agreement detailed six contracting bids that Stephens and his co-conspirators rigged, which included work performed for the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas. The projects included heavy military equipment work such as refurbishing armor kits for military trucks and turrets for Humvees. One of Stephens’s co-conspirators, John “Mark” Leveritt, pleaded guilty in July 2022.

Stephens pleaded guilty to a violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other relevant factors.

The Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section is prosecuting the case, which was investigated with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division’s Dallas Fraud Resident Agency, and the FBI’s Dallas Field Office.

In November 2019, the Department of Justice created the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF), a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact government procurement, grant, and program funding at all levels of government – federal, state and local. For more information, visit https://www.justice.gov/procurement-collusion-strike-force.

Domestic Incident Leads to Special Response Team Activation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Saturday, January 28, 2022

On Friday, January 27 at 11:05 p.m., Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the 21000 block of Division Drive for a domestic situation. Upon arrival, deputies made contact with a female victim at a neighbor’s home who advised that she was assaulted and strangled by her boyfriend who was inside their residence next door. Attempts were made to have the suspect, a 28-year-old man from Marshall, come out of the home, but he refused. The Calhoun County Special Response Team (SRT) was activated due to the suspect’s violent history. After two hours of negotiations, the suspect implied that he may cause harm to himself and continued to refuse to cooperate. SRT made entry to the upstairs of the home where they located the subject possessing a knife. “Less Lethal” means were used to apprehend the suspect—A rubber impact round was fired, striking the suspect. He was taken into custody, assessed by EMS, and lodged at the Calhoun County Jail for Assault to do Great Bodily Harm Less Than Murder by Strangulation and Resisting/Obstructing Law Enforcement.

Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office deputies were assisted by Michigan State Police, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Police, Marshall Police Department, and the Marshall Area Fire Fighters Ambulance Authority.

Haadsma Applauds Democratic Legislation Providing Economic Relief to Michiganders

Haadsma

STATE REPRESENTATIVE

Jim Haadsma

JimHaadsma@house.mi.gov
Haadsma.housedems.com

LANSING, Mich., Jan. 26, 2023 — The Michigan House passed House Bills 4001 and 4002 and a school aid supplemental budget (Senate Bill 8) today to boost the economy and provide much-needed relief to the people of Michigan. After the legislation passed, state Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) issued the following statement:  

“I am always thankful I have the opportunity to be a representative for my district, and after tonight’s vote, I am especially grateful because we passed legislation that is going to have substantial, tangible impacts on folks all across Michigan. HB 4002 expands a tax credit to working families, which means they will have a much-needed and deserved financial breather. On top of that, we passed a bill to repeal the retirement tax, so that seniors can have more peace of mind during their golden years. We made sure to help Michigan schools tonight, too, with funding reimbursements for special education needs. All in all, this was an amazing night making laws to support Michigan workers and families. It’s this kind of legislation that is going to keep up momentum when it comes to economic growth.”

DETROIT’S FORD FIELD TO HOST USFL GAMES DURING 2023 SEASON

Detroit's Ford Field to host USFL games during 2023 season

4 hours ago

DETROIT — The USFL is returning to Detroit.

On Thursday, the league announced that Detroit would be the host city for two of its franchises — the Michigan Panthers and Philadelphia Stars — with games being played at Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

The announcement comes roughly 40 years after Michigan won the 1983 USFL championship, coincidentally defeating Philadelphia in the title game.

“We’re back!” said Daryl Johnston, USFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations. “With the help of some great partners, the USFL is making history by announcing that the Michigan Panthers have returned home in 2023 to play at Ford Field. The USFL is proud to be part of the revitalization of downtown Detroit, and we’re excited about turning up the Motown music and firing up a fan base for professional spring football in Michigan.”

The Panthers and Stars will arrive in the Detroit Metro region in mid-March for the start of training camp. When the 10-week USFL regular season begins April 15, both teams will start on the road before coming to Ford Field on April 30 in the first of several weekends of professional football games in downtown Detroit.

Fans can pre-register for USFL tickets in Detroit via Ticketmaster to make a deposit for $25 and lock in priority access, or visit theUSFL.com for more information.

Last season, all eight USFL teams played their regular-season games in Birmingham, Alabama. But during the playoffs in Canton, Ohio last June, the USFL announced it would expand into more cities for the 2023 season, as the league incrementally moves teams into their namesake markets until all are playing in front of hometown fans.

As part of that process, the 2023 season will have four host cities. They are:

The USFL is the first major professional spring football league in nearly 40 years to complete a successful inaugural season and return for Season 2. 

“We’re excited to deliver high-quality and competitive professional spring football to fans all across the country who crave more football,” said Johnston. “The USFL proved itself to be a stable league run by experienced football leaders who provide a fan-friendly, fun, and affordable stadium experience while being a catalyst for the evolution of football through innovative rules.”

Happy Birthday – Community Celebrates Jim Cascarelli’s Birthday

Written by Carolyn Gilg

Photos by Carolyn Gilg

January 18, 2023

Two well known Albion icons were on display, Tuesday, January 17, 2023: Cascarelli’s Restaurant and Jim Cascarelli. Tuesday Jim celebrated his birthday with his hometown at the restaurant that has born his family name since 1909. Jim turned 80 on Tuesday and celebrated with his family and the Albion community at large. Among those family members helping Jim & Nancy, were their three children: Erin, Dana and Matt. Many community members came from near and far to help celebrate this historic event.

Nancy Cascarelli serves the customers Tuesday.

Jim was born in Albion at the-then Sheldon Memorial Hospital on January 17, 1943, to Louis and Helen (DeLuca) Cascarelli and has worked at the family restaurant for many years. Jim & his wife Nancy have become the face of Cascarelli’s since the death of Jim’s mother Helen. Prior to his parents’ deaths (dad Louis in 1975 and mom Helen in 2007) Jim worked alongside them, learning the restaurant business from them. Along with their well known and well-loved pizza, Cascarelli’s now offers a full menu with special items offered on the weekends. And let’s not forget all those lovely, lovely nuts.

If you weren’t able to stop in yesterday, the old adage “better late than never” works here; stop in one day this week and wish Jim a happy 80th birthday.

Tom Pitt slinging drinks.

Letter to the Editor – NAACP Resolution & Ashley Woodson Challenged

Written by John Face

January 16, 2023

Below you will see a letter written asking for publication. City Watch does on occasion allow unsigned letters of opinion and this will be one of those. The author wishes to remain unknown due to the sensitivity of this entire situation. City Watch knows the author and has vetted their responses as best we can. Yesterday City Watch published a story that referenced and included the entire document below, CLICK HERE TO SEE THAT ARTICLE.

To the Editor

Resolution of condemnation for City Watch Albion

In reviewing the document, and the included referenced writings of John Face presented by Dr Ashley Woodson, and the NAACP, I must voice my opposition to the resolution on the grounds that Dr Woodson’s attributions and assertions are incorrect.  Much of the complaints are centered on three events within over the past year: the altercation between Hazel Lias and Former President (Albion College) Mat Johnson at a Basketball game, the Redistricting of the city in advance of the 2022 election and the subsequent loss of Shane Williamson as 6th precinct Councilman, and the candidacy of Keena Williams for mayor.

Much of City Watch Albion’s reporting during this past 18 months has centered on the impact that Albion College President Mat Johnson had on our community.  The presented document (NAACP) is biased and makes no substantiated argument that the actions of John Face are outside a journalistic code of ethics.  He has retracted statements when new information was available, and though Dr Woodson claims bias against Black women as a trend, in fact many of the cited articles presented target President Johnson, and his behavior, rather than the Black women mentioned in the article. I will address each point made below.

(In parenthesis and bold lettering are the comments of the author in relation to the resolution.)

“We are the Albion Chapter of the NAACP. Our membership in this pioneering organization compels us to speak out against the kinds of lies and distortions that undermine the Black condition, and that undermine the continued pursuit of democracy. As an organization and as individual members, we hold symbolic, earned, elected and appointed leadership positions throughout Albion. We have directly observed City Watch News create suspicion, estrangement and tell outright lies about Albion residents. We are deeply invested in the future of our city and cannot be silent as our neighbors are degraded and misrepresented.

This includes:

● On November 2 and November 4 of this year, unsubstantiated attacks against Black

woman mayoral candidate Keena Williams, including reference to information that could

only be obtained unethically.

(The two pieces are in reference to the connection between a mayoral candidate, who is financially supporting her candidacy, and her connection to disgraced former President Mat Johnson.  The two articles linked to this point refer to campaign finance records.  These records are, in fact, readily available through FOIA, therefore, not obtained unethically. Tax records are also open records and available to the public.)

● On December 15 of last year, a lie about violence against a Black woman that resulted in

death threats against Albion residents and threats of violence against Albion College.

While one specific claim was retracted, City Watch News persisted in the reckless

disregard for the truth and accuracy when reporting on other people, including other

Black women, who were involved (screenshot below).

(This issue regarding whether or not Hazel was pushed, was a huge issue.  Witnesses around her during the incident made claims of her being pushed by Johnson at the time of the article’s writing. It was corrected in subsequent articles as new information came forward. The linked article claims errors in the college’s document explaining the incident. Face’s writing does not identify anyone other than former President Mat Johnson. The Screenshot to a Facebook post has been retracted and no longer on Facebook, but it has been replaced with updated article.)

● City Watch News has published baseless and unreasonable claims about Dr. Ashley Woodson. The behavior borders on harassment: the paper has referenced her name at least six times in one year (1,2,3,4,5,6), but has never requested an interview or fact-checked claims.

None but one of the referenced articles make any negative comment or claim about Ashely Woodson!

Here are the quotes from the referenced articles making, “baseless and unreasonable claims about Dr. Ashley Woodson.”

  1. “I received a text message from Johnson. He at first offered to meet and have Dr. Ashley Woodson be there also. We agreed to meet one on one in the hotel lobby” (Nothing inflammatory about this sentence, no claims made.)
  2. (Different article, copied text above)
  3. (Again, a different article, copied text above)
  4. “Insiders state that Brown and Ashley Woodson, an Albion college employee have made inquiries as to what are qualifications for the manager position. It is unknown if Woodson is also interested in the manager job.” (There is nothing inflammatory about this. Face is stating a belief that comes from “insiders”)
  5. (This reference is the most opinionated of all references provided and is clearly shows Face’s attitudes towards the former college president, former mayor, and Ashley Woodson.  What protects Face is his claim to be speaking to “sources”.  Is any of this supposition true?)

“City Watch has spoken with several sources over the last few months and some disturbing concerns are coming to light. There is an effort now to eliminate current Albion City Manager Haley Snyder and replace her with either Garrett Brown or Albion College employee Ashley Woodson. Williams is a friend of both, and both have served as advisors on her campaign. It is no secret that Brown has long wished to “lead” Albion. As City Manager he would be able to do that and having Williams as Mayor would give him complete control of council agenda. Why would the college care about Williams getting elected? Well, she along with other members of council have been vocal about their blind support of Mat Johnson, the former President. A College cozy council will give little oversight of the college actions.”

  • (This reference is again connected to the College’s response to the Hazel Lias incident, describing the work Keena Williams and Ashley Woodson did after the incident. It in no way disparages either woman.)   “In the days after this event Keena Williams, then an employee at the college and a member of Johnsons cabinet and Ashley Woodson, another member of his cabinet would arrive at Hazel Lias’ front door to comfort her and offer her support if she needed it. During the visit they were asked about the laptop computer that they brought, and the reply was that they would be willing to help her write a response to the situation. Lias refused the offer and would hold a tell all press conference in the days following that told an entirely different story than what Johnson was sharing.”

● On multiple occasions, City Watch News published targeted, rambling, conspiracy theory laden attacks on other women in leadership, including Councilwoman Lenn Reid, Councilwoman Marcola Lawler, and former Councilwoman Linda Lanoue.

(This claim is based on the relationship between Former president Mat Johnson and members of Albion’s City Council members.  It is true that the college made promises to council members that benefitted individual council members through offering jobs and project financial support (Holland Park, Washington Gardner and low-income housing projects). And it is true that during the redistricting process, numerous maps were created by city staff, one of which redistricted Linda laNoue out of her precinct, and it is also true that the agenda change concerning a map drawn outside of city purview was a last-minute change, avoiding community input or backlash, and it DID redistrict Shane Willaimson out of Precinct 6.  Multiple maps were presented, many would have not changed the face of council, but the one selected just happened to cut Shane from Council? It has never been done before in Albion, and smacks of gerrymandering to rid the council of an opposition voice. All are facts, Mr. Face is just connecting the dots. His basic claim may not be true, but he is asking the reader to consider all the coincidences as connected.)

“Some have insinuated that if the NAACP publicly names this as a form of journalistic terrorism,

we give City Watch News undue attention. We choose to join the conversation now because we are appalled by the influence of City Watch News: it has been cited in City Council meetings and by City Council members, at Albion College faculty meetings and in casual conversations at the Bohm Theatre. Some share these lies (Please identify the lies, nothing presented are classified as lies, which implies intent.) because they want to discredit individuals who hold different opinions than they do, so they derive personal benefit from a culture that bullies and silences advocates for change. Even more concerning are the ways that City Watch News exploits the most vulnerable in our community, particularly those with limited literacy and limited access to alternative sources of information.

These campaigns of cowardice and deceit make it difficult to recruit workers and families to Albion. It makes a mockery of our city’s historic aspirations toward integrity, excellence and cooperation. It tarnishes our city’s reputation and terrorizes potential civic leaders. We believe this is by intention. It is harmful, it is wrong. It is was The Crisis sought to fix, and it is our moral obligation to take a stance against it.

(Again, this harsh rhetoric is not based on facts. It is not a campaign of cowardice and deceit, there is nothing presented that disputes facts.  What it appears to be is an effort to silence the press that is of a different opinion than a member of the NAACP.)

Albion NAACP Asks City Council to Pass Resolution Against City Watch NEWS Blog

Written by John Face

January 15, 2023

City Watch NEWS

Below you will see an email sent to Lenn Reid from Ashley Woodson asking her to move forward a resolution set forth by the Albion Chapter of NAACP. City Watch was sent this from a concerned citizen. The email and resolution are fairly easy to follow so there really is no need for me to tell you what it’s about, just read them. I have not transferred over all the links associated to the documents, if you want them email Woodson (awoodson@albion.edu) and get them. They link to stories, and I am not going to waste my time doing something she can do. Again, email Woodson.

City Watch has several issues with all of this, and according to this document Woodson has never been asked for an interview by me. Well though technically true City Watch sought to interview her, but the college administration said no and within days of that sent an email out to all staff telling them they could not allow themselves to be interviewed by media. So, I didn’t attempt any further.

The NAACP has some questions to answer. Your organization is supposed to be dedicated to free speech, due process, civil rights of not just people of color, but all people. Which is one reason the Albion NAACP has always had all races on their board. So where was the due process here?

At no time was this writer asked to respond to the accusations regarding this document. What kind of investigation is it when someone who is being accused of everything from journalistic terrorism, causing people not wanting to move to Albion and so on unable to defend themselves? Does the Albion NAACP feel proud of their decision to publicly attack, and slander City Watch with NO investigation? Did you talk to your whole Board or members before making these accusations?

I would ask this question, if I submitted a complaint against Ashley Woodson would you go to her and ask her to explain her side? I am pretty sure you would, and you should, and thank you for grossly failing to extend the same consideration to me, the Board should be ashamed of themselves and certainly not proud. You are making serious accusations, slanderous accusations. I hold many of you in high regards, well I used to. So not allowing me or anyone the opportunity to defend themselves kind of goes against what the NAACP is supposed to be about.

Now Albion College, why is your employee using her college email account to put forth this? Why is your employee using her official title in making these accusations? Does Albion College support this? If so, why did they fail to verify the truthfulness of the so-called facts? Isn’t it time that Albion College stop sticking its nose into local politics? Look what happened when Mat Johnson attempted to control city politics. Nothing good came from that. The fact that Woodson used her title implies the College is involved. If that is true, why?

City of Albion, is this resolution even legal? I am very aware that the votes exist to pass this resolution. But why in hell would you take this up? The Albion NAACP is asking you to attack an individual in our city. I would hope that city officers would tell the council this can’t be done.

City Watch NEWS Blog is a local news service. According to Sonya Brown, former city council member who was recalled and is asking for millions from the City of Albion and employees, she said in her lawsuit, “John Face was a local blogger and owner of the City News Watch Blog, which frequently published articles on topics and subjects relevant to the City of Albion”. Thanks, Sonya, for acknowledging City Watch is relevant.

Former Albion Mayor Garrett Brown is often vocal as well claiming City Watch is not a news service, yet he sat down for an interview. During this interview we went off the record for well over an hour and at no time have I repeated anything he shared with me and trust me I wish I could. Mat Johnson the disgraced former President at Albion College sat down for an interview as well and he too went off the record with me. Now these two men are vocal critics of City Watch mostly due to the fact that I wrote about what they were doing. They know that I have never shared the off the record comments they made, never, and never will, because that’s what a journalist does.

Finally, I will not stop. I will continue to report. I will not allow this to scare me.

I redacted personal email addresses below but not the names of those who received it.

From: Ashley Woodson <awoodson@albion.edu>

To: Robert Dunklin Tonya Arnett Lenn Reid <lreid@cityofalbionmi.gov>; linda kolmodin Vivian Davis <vdavis@cityofalbionmi.gov>

Cc: Donivan Williams <dwilliams@cityofalbionmi.gov>; “njackson@cityofalbionmi.gov” <njackson@cityofalbionmi.gov>; “mlawler@cityofalbionmi.gov” <mlawler@cityofalbionmi.gov>; Andy French <afrench@cityofalbionmi.gov>; Jill Domingo <jadomingo@cityofalbionmi.gov>; Linda LaNoue

Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at 08:57:52 PM EST

Subject: NAACP submission to Council

Good evening Councilwoman Reid,

I am writing to you as my Councilwoman and as a member of the Albion Chapter of the NAACP.

On December 8, 2022 our Executive Board voted to submit the attached resolution to Council, expressing disapproval and continued concern about City Watch NEWS disseminating misinformation, inciting public distrust and contributing to divisiveness in the city of Albion. 

We are asking that Council review and adopt the resolution during the next meeting. Please let us know if you have any questions, President Dunklin, Secretary Arnett and past Communications Chair Kolmodin are cc’d on this email.

Also: please mark your calendars for our February 16, 2023 Founders Day celebration at 6:30 pm. A formal invitation will follow. 

Toward what matters,


Ashley Woodson
Associate Vice President for Academic Outreach & Strategic Development
Albion College
611 E. Porter St.
Albion, MI  49224

In 1910, W.E.B. DuBois founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) newspaper The Crisis. The Crisis would soon become the most influential periodical about race and the struggle against racism. The newspaper’s mission was an extension of the NAACP mission: “to pursue “the world-old dream of human brotherhood” by bearing witness to “the danger of race prejudice” and reporting on “the great problem of inter-racial relations,” both at home and abroad”1 .

 We are the Albion Chapter of the NAACP. Our membership in this pioneering organization compels us to speak out against the kinds of lies and distortions that undermine the Black condition, and that undermine the continued pursuit of democracy. As an organization and as individual members, we hold symbolic, earned, elected and appointed leadership positions throughout Albion. We have directly observed City Watch News create suspicion, estrangement and tell outright lies about Albion residents. We are deeply invested in the future of our city and cannot be silent as our neighbors are degraded and misrepresented.

This includes:

● On November 2 and November 4 of this year, unsubstantiated attacks against Black woman mayoral candidate Keena Williams, including reference to information that could only be obtained unethically.

● On December 15 of last year, a lie about violence against a Black woman that resulted in death threats against Albion residents and threats of violence against Albion College. While one specific claim was retracted, City Watch News persisted in the reckless disregard for the truth and accuracy when reporting on other people, including other Black women, who were involved (screenshot below).

● City Watch News has published baseless and unreasonable claims about Dr. Ashley Woodson. The behvior borders on harassment: the paper has referenced her name at least six times in one year (1,2,3,4,5,6), but has never requested an interview or fact-checked claims.

● On multiple occasions, City Watch News published targeted, rambling, conspiracy theory laden attacks on other women in leadership, including Councilwoman Lenn Reid, Councilwoman Marcola Lawler, and former Councilwoman Linda Lanoue.

Some have insinuated that if the NAACP publicly names this as a form of journalistic terrorism, we give City Watch News undue attention. We choose to join the conversation now because we

1 Benjamin L. Hooks, “Publisher’s Foreward,” The Crisis 92, no. 10 (1985): 6; Brown University and The University of Tulsa. “The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races,” The Modernist Journals Project: “Modernism Began in the Magazines”.

are appalled by the influence of City Watch News: it has been cited in City Council meetings and by City Council members, at Albion College faculty meetings and in casual conversations at the Bohm Theatre. Some share these lies because they want to discredit individuals who hold different opinions than they do, so they derive personal benefit from a culture that bullies and silences advocates for change. Even more concerning are the ways that City Watch News exploits the most vulnerable in our community, particularly those with limited literacy and limited access to alternative sources of information.

These campaigns of cowardice and deceit make it difficult to recruit workers and families to Albion. It makes a mockery of our city’s historic aspirations toward integrity, excellence and cooperation. It tarnishes our city’s reputation and terrorizes potential civic leaders. We believe this is by intention. It is harmful, it is wrong. It is was The Crisis sought to fix, and it is our moral obligation to take a stance against it.

December 8, 2022 NAACP Executive Board Meeting

The Albion Chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People submits the following resolution to Albion’s City Council for a public vote: Council hereby expresses disapproval and continued concern about City Watch NEWS disseminating misinformation, inciting public distrust and contributing to divisiveness in the city of Albion:

WHEREAS: Albion, MI meets the criteria for a news desert as defined by the Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media as “a community, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level,” and WHEREAS: News deserts create democratic vulnerabilities, since information vacuums diminish citizens’ ability to hold elected officials and civic leaders accountable; and

WHEREAS: The Society of Professional Journalists states that ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.

WHEREAS: the Society further outlines four principles of ethical journalism, which are to seek truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently and be accountable and transparent; and

WHEREAS: City Watch NEWS relies on unnamed, unspecified sources in ways that prevents readers from assessing the motivations, possible biases and possible conflicts of interest those sources may have; and

WHEREAS: City Watch NEWS fails to verify reports and as such contributes to gossip, slander, and ad hominem attacks that cause frustration and fear in our community; and

WHEREAS: the language used by City Watch NEWS to describe individual Albion citizens and the broader public does not meet standards of ethical journalism or the minimum standards expected of responsible civic agents; and

WHEREAS: Council considers the expressed position of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People and other diverse organizations who recognize that ethical journalism is a necessary feature of a more just community; and

WHEREAS: it is Council’s collective judgment and hope that City Watch NEWS and individuals who identify as journalists aim to protect and promote democratic wellness, integrity, transparency, civility and accountability in Albion; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That this Council does formally express its disapproval of City Watch NEWS’

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