The Federal Bureau of Investigation has apprehend Abidemi Rufai, a special assistant to the Governor of Ogun State, Nigeria, over the $350,000 covid-19 unemployment benefit fund.
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, The choices we make are our sole responsibility. Well, this 42-year-old fraudster is about to measure up to the choices he made to defraud a US state.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of Abidemi Rufai for allegedly defrauding the State of Washington and other states in the United States over $350,000 in covid-19 unemployment benefits fund through wire fraud. The accused, popularly called Sandy Tang, 42, who unfortunately happens to be a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Ogun State Governor in Nigeria, was disclosed in a social media release by the bureau on Monday.
On Friday evening at JFK Airport in New York, on a criminal charge, the accused was arrested, which includes wire fraud of over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department. He is scheduled for a detention hearing on 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.”
“A Nigerian citizen was arrested on 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.
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 email address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems. 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 regarding benefits paid in connection with a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FBI investigated this case 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 ongoing investigation. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson, Cindy Chang, and Benjamin Diggs of the Western District of Washington. Trial Attorney Jane Lee of DOJ’s Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).
Legally a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a competent court of law
Who Is Abidemi Rufai?
Abidemi Rufai is a senior special assistant to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun here in Nigeria, he has been in the United States since 2020 and have used 100 identities of Washington to Claim $350,000 Covid-19 unemployment funds meant for the United States Citizens.
According to report by Kiro7 he also fake identities of some other people in Different part of the United states.
The Chief Press Secretary to Ogun State, Nigeria governor Kunle Somorin, has confirmed the reaction of the State Government to the arrest of Mr. Abidemi Rafiu. He told the Press that “The Law should take its course and Rafiu should answer to all Charges against Him”
It is also Noted that Rafiu is running for a political Position of the House of Representative in Nigeria before his Arrest.
What you should know
There has been a massive increase in the number of fraudulent activities in Nigeria in the past 10 years. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) is seemingly overwhelmed by the number of cases the commission handles.
The economic downturn and high unemployment situation in the country is driving more youth into fraud also known as “Yahoo” or “Yahoo yahoo” which most of them now see as ‘hustle’ but this is absolutely no excuse for getting involved in fraud
There have been embarrassing reports of Nigerians being arrested or even sentenced to death for fraud overseas. Not long ago a popular Instagram sensation known as Hushpuppy who is fond of his lavish lifestyle on Instagram was arrested and is currently being tried in US prison. Also a popular tech CEO of Invictus Group, Invictus Okeke who even made it to Forbes list of young African under 30 was also arrested by the FBI for computer and wire fraud causing approximately $11million in known losses to his victims, he was sentenced to 10 years in US prison
There’s also the report of a Nigerian fraud ring known as “Scattered Canary” accused of fuelling Covid-related unemployment fraud in the United States in 2020, according to Bloomberg Law. 11 states witnessed an increase in fraudulent unemployment insurance activity fueled by the millions of claims coming in each month and additional federal dollars being offered to the unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Places including Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Washington reported billions of dollars in identity theft.
USA Today estimates that international fraudsters’ attacks contributed to at least $36 billion being looted away from unemployed Americans.