February 25, 2024

Here’s an interesting story about a Nigerian prince scheme that does not involve a Nigerian. Alex Tannous, a self-proclaimed prince with ties to Emirati royalty, has been arrested for allegedly swindling San Antonio investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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The arrest took place on February 9 and appears to reveal a complex saga of deception, betrayal, and a quest for justice.

A man accused of falsely claiming to be a “prince” and bilking investors in San Antonio of hundreds of thousands of dollars has been arrested on a charge of wire fraud.

Alex Tannous, a 38-year-old Lebanese native, appeared Friday in federal court after the FBI arrested him when he returned from abroad to San Antonio for a child custody hearing hearing, records show. He was ordered held without bond, pending a bail hearing in federal court on Tuesday.

For many years, Tannous “claimed to be a businessman and diplomat from the United Arab Emirates with close ties to Emirati royalty,” said a criminal complaint affidavit filed by the FBI. “In reality, Tannous was a skilled con artist who used his gifts of persuasion to bilk unknowing victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“In general, Tannous executed his schemes by telling his victims, who were often San Antonio-area, small to medium sized business owners, that he could help bring their business into the UAE using financing sources to which he had access in the UAE,” the affidavit said. “To secure the financing, Tannous told his victims to pay thousands of dollars to him via entities he owned and controlled.”

One of the entities was called Equico Enterprises Inc.

The affidavit lists only one victim, whose software business facilitated the operation of ghost kitchens, which prepare orders for delivery and pick-up only. That victim was duped out of $70,000, the affidavit said.

If prosecutors decide to present the case to a grand jury, they could pursue additional counts. The wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

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Investors believed that Tannous was a high-profile hotshot with valuable connections to Middle Eastern commerce. But, in reality, he was a young man living off an allowance provided to him by his parents and the credit of his now-former wife. His façade began to crumble when news reports uncovered his fraudulent activities.

This prompted a federal investigation that eventually led to his arrest when he returned to the United States for a child custody hearing. He is currently being held without bond due to the possibility that he could be a flight risk.

According to the affidavit, Tannous convinced “victim 1” to open ghost kitchens in the UAE and eventually the rest of the Middle East. Some of their conversations occurred at an office in Boerne. Witnesses told the Express-News they saw Tannous share that office with a former dean of St. Mary’s University School of Law, Stephen Sheppard.

The affidavit said Tannous claimed he was an Emirati official tasked with finding U.S. firms that could do business in the UAE. Tannous also allegedly suggested that he and the software firm owner form a joint venture to develop ghost kitchens, and said he could secure millions from a Emirati economic development fund.

Tannous sought $100,000 and the business owner wired $70,000 in four payments between June and August 2021 to an account in the name of Equico, the affidavit said. But the business venture never materialized, and the investor told the Express-News last year that he was struggling to get his money back.

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Tannous’ story serves as a stark reminder of the age-old warnings about opportunities that seem too good to be true. The victims of his alleged deceptions might never regain their lost money. The legal system will eventually determine the price the defendant will pay, but for those affected, the damage has already been done.

This is why it is important to look deeper into those making sweeping promises of fast wealth. In most cases, it actually is too good to be true.

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