The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested Abidemi Rufai, a Senior Special Assistant to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, over $350,000 employment fraud.
Rufai was arrested on Friday evening at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York based on criminal complaint.
He was subsequently charged with defrauding Washington State Employment Security Department of over $350,000.
According to the US Department of Justice, District of Washington, 42-year-old Rufai was alleged to have used the pseudonym Sandy Tang and the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with Employment Security Department for unemployment benefits last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acting US Attorney Tessa Gorman said, “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.”
The criminal complaint also said Rufai mailed some of the proceeds of his fraud to the Jamaica and New York addresses of his relatives with more than $288,000 deposits 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 Gorman. “This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud.”
Special Agent in Charge FBI Seattle, Donald Voiret, said, “Greed is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, the greed alleged to this defendant affects all taxpayers. 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.”
Rufai made his initial appearance last Saturday in New York and he is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday. Rufai risks 30 years in prison if found guilty of wire fraud.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Ogun State Governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hassan, told The PUNCH that Rufai is a special assistant to his principal, Dapo Abiodun, but said he was not aware of his arrest for any crime.
The PUNCH had also reported that Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Raymond Igbalode, also known as Hushpuppi, was last year extradited to the US for trial over cyber fraud after his arrest in Dubai.
Hushpuppi and other members of his crew allegedly perpetrated fraud amounting to 1.6 billion dirham (N168bn). No fewer than 1,926,400 persons from different parts of the world were also said to have fallen victim to the suspects. Also, 13 luxury cars, estimated at 35 million dirham (N3.7bn) were recovered from the house, where the suspects were arrested.
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