A 42-year-old Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ogun State, Abidemi Rufai, also known as Sandy Tang, was taken in by US authorities at the JFK Airport, New York.
He was apprehended for defrauding the Washington State Employment Security Department of over $350,000 (N142.6m).
According to the Acting US Attorney, Tessa Gorman, “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.
“This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud.”
Nigerians have taken to social media to air their opinions on the subject.
Some have questioned the process of employment at state and federal government levels, calling for proper vetting of candidates.
See reactions below:
Abidemi Rufai’s Predecessors
Abidemi Rufai’s arrest is one of the most recent high-profile fraud cases perpetrated by Nigerians targeting foreigners, particularly US citizens.
Last year, the police in Dubai apprehended social media personality, Ramon Olorunwa Abass, also known as Hushpuppi, alongside his posse of fraudsters.
The arrest was executed by the e-police unit of the Dubai Police, rounding up 12 suspects in six raids.
The Hushpuppi-led gang was arrested for defrauding 1.9 million people of about N169 billion, among various other malfeasance.
Rufai, in a fraud variant, stole the identities of over 100 Washington residents “to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits,” a statement from the US Department of Justice read.
It added that “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 statement disclosed that Rufai received the money through online payment accounts like Green Dot or the funds were wired to bank accounts ‘controlled by “money mules.”’