The US says Abidemi Rufai, a senior special assistant to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, governor of Ogun remains in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York he was indicted for alleged conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Acting US attorney Tessa Gorman in a statement on Thursday said prosecutors have also asked Benjamin Settle, US district judge, 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 statement reads.
“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.
“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 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.”
Rufai was arrested at the JFK airport in New York on May 14 over alleged $350,000 unemployment benefits fraud from the Washington State employment security department (ESD).
According to the US attorney, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud are punishable by up to 30 years in prison when the offence relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
An aggravated identity theft according to the US attorney is punishable by a mandatory minimum two-year sentence to run consecutive to any sentence imposed on the other counts of conviction.
By Abel Ejikeme