Abidemi Rufai, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, has been arrest in the United States of America over his involvement in a $350,000 COVID-19 unemployment benefits fraud.
In a statement released by the United States Department of Justice, Abidemi Rufai, was arrested at New York’s John Kennedy International Airport last Friday, May 14 after attempting to abscond the country.
He appeared in the US Federation court on Saturday, May 15, on charges that he used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steak more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Tessa Gorman, acting U.S ,Attorney for the Western District of Washington said:
“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 the funds designated for pandemic relief. This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud”.
The US Department of Justice in its statement said the Criminal complaint alleged thay Rufai uses the the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic related unemployment benefits and was able to collect the proceeds using the accounts of his relatives in New York and Jamaica.
The statement in part reads;
“Rufai also filed fraudulent unemployment cliams in Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania. Rufai used variations of a single email 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 relatives law enforcement determined more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020″.
Investigations said Rufai used small variations in email addresses in a Gmail account, which made it appeared like he was multiple people, to slip through fraud detection at ESD. He primarily uses the address [email protected] but would scatter periods in variations like [email protected] and [email protected] Investigators said Gmail addresses do not recognize periods, so anything sent to the different addresses went straight to Rufai’s inbox.
In January, a federal judge issued a warrant to Gmail, allowing investigators to search his Gmail account. Rufai however let down his guard by linking his Nigeria phone number to the account.
Commenting on his arrest, Donald Voiret, Special Agent in Charge FBI Seattle, said:
“Greed is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, the greed alleged to this defendant affects all taxpapers. 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 which it relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially declared disaster or emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rufai made his initial appearance on Saturday, May 15 in New York. He is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday, May 19.