Ogun Governor’s Aide, Abidemi Rufai Pleads Guilty To COVID-19 Fraud In U.S.

A file photo of Mr Abidemi Rufai.

 

A 45-year-old resident of Lekki in Lagos, Mr Abidemi Rufai, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in the United States, authorities have said,

Rufai who has been in custody since he was apprehended at New York’s JFK airport in May 2021, was the Special Assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, at the time of his arrest.

Days after the report of his arrest emerged, Governor Abiodun suspended Rufai from office to answer for the charges against him.

About a year later, Rufai pleaded guilty to using stolen identities to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in pandemic-related unemployment benefits during his arraignment at the U.S. District Court in Tacoma, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown announced.

According to the plea agreement, since 2017, Rufai unlawfully obtained the personal identifying information of more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2 million in claims for federally funded benefits under a variety of relief programmes while the various agencies involved paid out more than $600,000.

“The largest amount of fraud was committed against the Washington State Employment Security Department, which paid out $350,763 in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims to accounts controlled by Rufai,” said a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. “Rufai also submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states.

“Rufai also defrauded the Small Business Administration (SBA) by attempting to obtain Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April 8, 2020, and June 26, 2020, he submitted 19 fraudulent EIDL applications. SBA paid out $10,000 based on the applications.”


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The U.S. authorities said Rufai attempted to obtain more than $1.7 million in IRS tax refunds by submitting 675 false claims between 2017 and 2020 out of which IRS paid out $90,877.

It added that the defendant’s efforts to enrich himself with false disaster claims did not start with COVID-19 as he had submitted 49 disaster relief claims connected to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in September and October 2017.

Rufai was also said to have filed $24,500 in false claims and was paid on 13 claims, totalling $6,500.

“Rufai has agreed to pay full restitution to the defrauded agencies,” the statement added. “Wire fraud in relation to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by two years in prison to follow any prison term imposed on another charge.

“Prosecutors have agreed to recommend no more than 71 months in prison. The recommendation is not binding on U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle, who will determine the appropriate sentence on August 15, 2022, after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.”

According to authorities, the case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Department of Labour Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and the United States Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General, while the Washington Employment Security Department is cooperating in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson and Cindy Chang of the Western District of Washington.

Abidemi Rufai Indicted For Conspiracy, Wire Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft

 

 Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman has announced that Abidemi Rufai who was arrested May 14, 2021, at JFK Airport in New York, has now been indicted for conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department. 

Mr. Rufai, aka Sandy Tang, 42, remains detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York. Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle to order Rufai detained and transported to the Western District of Washington for arraignment on the indictment.

Rufai is now charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

The indictment alleges that Rufai used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

Other indictments include that “Rufai also filed fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania. Rufai used variations of a single e-mail address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems. By using this practice, Rufai made it appear that each claim was connected with a different email account.

READ ALSO: Ogun Governor Suspends Aide Arrested For Alleged Fraud In US

“Rufai caused the fraud proceeds to be paid out to online payment accounts such as ‘Green Dot’ accounts, or wired to bank accounts controlled by “money mules.” Some of the proceeds were then mailed to the Jamaica, New York address of Rufai’s brother. Rufai was residing at his brother’s home during part of the period of the fraud. Law enforcement determined more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020.”

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud are punishable by up to thirty years in prison when the offense relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory minimum two-year sentence to run consecutive to any sentence imposed on the other counts of conviction.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG). The fraud on ESD is being investigated cooperatively by the FBI, DOL-OIG, Social Security Office of Inspector General, U.S. Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations. The Washington Employment Security Department is cooperating in the investigation.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson, Cindy Chang, and Benjamin Diggs of the Western District of Washington, and Trial Attorney Jane Lee of DOJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).

Ogun Governor Suspends Aide Arrested For Alleged Fraud In US

Abidemi Rufai, the Senior Special Assistant to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun

 

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, has suspended his Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties, Abidemi Rufai.

The suspension is sequel to his arrest in the United States for alleged involvement in $350,000 unemployment fraud.

Channels Television had reported how the governor’s aide was apprehended at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York based on a criminal complaint.

The aide’s suspension was disclosed in a statement issued on Tuesday by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Kunle Somorin, adding that his involvement in fraud is disturbing.

READ ALSO: Dapo Abiodun’s Aide, Abidemi Rufai Arrested In US Over $350,000 Fraud

“The Ogun State governor,  Dapo Abiodun, has received the very disturbing news of the arrest of one of his political appointees, Mr Abidemi Rufai, in New York over alleged unemployment benefits fraud in the United States,” he said.

“In view of the gravity of these allegations, the Governor has ordered the immediate suspension of the accused appointee.

“The Governor wishes to restate his commitment to an open, transparent, accountable and morally upright Administration and will not condone any act bordering on criminality by anyone.”

Dapo Abiodun’s Aide, Abidemi Rufai Arrested In US Over $350,000 Fraud

Abidemi Rufai, the Senior Special Assistant to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun

 

Abidemi Rufai, the Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, has been arrested in the United States of America over $350,000 employment fraud.

Rufai was quizzed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday evening at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York following a criminal complaint.

He was subsequently charged with defrauding the Washington State Employment Security Department of over $350,000.

The suspect was said to have used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

Rufai was accused of using variations of a single e-mail address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems.

US law enforcement agents said more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020.

“Since the first fraud reports to our office in April 2020, we have worked diligently with a federal law enforcement team to track down the criminals who stole funds designated for pandemic relief,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman.

“This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud.”

See the statement issued by the Washington Department of Justice below:

Nigerian citizen charged with defrauding Washington State Employment Security Department of over $350,000

Arrested at NY airport on a criminal complaint

Seattle – A Nigerian citizen was arrested Friday evening at JFK Airport in New York on a criminal complaint charging him with wire fraud for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  Abidemi Rufai, aka Sandy Tang, 42, of Lekki, Nigeria, made his initial appearance Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York.  He is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday.

“Since the first fraud reports to our office in April 2020, we have worked diligently with a federal law enforcement team to track down the criminals who stole funds designated for pandemic relief,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman.  “This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud.”

The criminal complaint alleges that Rufai used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.  Rufai also filed fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.  Rufai used variations of a single e-mail address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems.  By using this practice, Rufai made it appear that each claim was connected with a different email account.

Rufai caused the fraud proceeds to be paid out to online payment accounts such as ‘Green Dot’ accounts, or wired to bank accounts controlled by “money mules.”  Some of the proceeds were then mailed to the Jamaica, New York address of Rufai’s relative.  Law enforcement determined more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020.

“Greed is a powerful motivator.  Unfortunately, the greed alleged to this defendant affects all taxpayers,” said Donald Voiret, Special Agent in Charge FBI Seattle. “The FBI and our partners will not stand idly by while individuals attempt to defraud programs meant to assist American workers and families suffering the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Wire fraud is punishable by up to thirty years in prison when it relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG).  The fraud on ESD is being investigated cooperatively by the FBI, DOL-OIG, Social Security Office of Inspector General, U.S. Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations.  The Washington Employment Security Department is cooperating in the investigation.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson, Cindy Chang, and Benjamin Diggs of the Western District of Washington, and Trial Attorney Jane Lee of DOJ’s Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).