A special assistant to the governor of Ogun State, Abidemi Rufai has been sentenced to five years in prison for pandemic fraud.
In May 2021, Mr. Rufai pleaded guilty before the U.S. District Court in Tacoma, on charges bordering on wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
He was alleged to have defrauded employees of the Washington State Employment Security Department the sum of $350,000.
Mr. Rufai was arrested at the New York airport in May 2021 by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), following a criminal complaint by about 100 defrauded US residents.
According to the FBI, “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. By using this practice, Rufai made it appear that each claim was connected with a different email account,”
The US Department of Justice, in a press release, revealed that Rufai admitted to having been part of the team that “obtained personal identifying information of more than 20,000 Americans to submit fraudulent claims for more than $2 million in federally funded payments since 2017.”
The statement reads “A 45-year-old resident of Lekki, Nigeria, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for using stolen identities to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.
“According to the plea agreement, since 2017, Rufai unlawfully obtained the personal identifying information for more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2 million in claims for federally funded benefits under a variety of relief programs. 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. Rufai also submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states.”
Mr. Rufai had entered a plea agreement and accepted to pay full restitution to the defrauded agencies.
How the court ruled
- On Monday, September 26, a federal judge in Tacoma, Washington sentenced Rufai to 60 months in prison for $2.4 million in wire fraud and aggravated identity theft from several authorities in the U.S., including about $500,000 in coronavirus relief grants.
- The 60 months includes 36 months for wire fraud and 24 months for aggravated identity theft of which the sentences are to run consecutively at the U.S. correctional facilities.
- The court also ordered Mr. Rufai to pay the sum of $607,377 as restitution, adding that he should list all assets linked to him that will be seized if he cannot pay the $607,377.
Culled from Nairametrics.
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