A federal district court in the United States (US) sentenced Abidemi Rufai, a suspended aide to Ogun Governor Dapo Abiodun, to five years in prison for fraud.
BizWatch Nigeria recalls that Rufai was apprehended at JFK Airport in New York on his way to Nigeria in May 2021.
He also admitted to obtaining identifying information for over 20,000 Americans, filing $2 million in claims for disaster relief and other federal benefits, and receiving over $600,000.
The most money was stolen from the Washington state employment security department, which received $350,763 in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims paid to accounts controlled by Rufai.
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Rufai is also accused of filing false pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states, including Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Cindy Chang, an assistant US attorney, stated in her request for a nearly six-year prison sentence that Rufai’s scheme harmed real people who needed help.
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 was also accused of filing false pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states, including Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Cindy Chang, an assistant US attorney, stated in her request for a nearly six-year prison sentence that Rufai’s scam harmed real people who needed help.
“In this case, Rufai successfully used the stolen identities of at least 238 real individuals who qualified for disaster aid and may have needed it urgently. This number does not account for the number of stolen identities Rufai attempted to use but failed,” she said.
At the sentencing hearing on Monday, US District Judge Benjamin H. Settle stated, “The motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and callousness towards those who have suffered.”
Nick Brown, US attorney said “Mr. Rufai was relentless in his scheme to use the stolen identities of Americans for fraud.”
“He orchestrated ‘mystery shopper’ scams, business email compromise attempts, and filed fake tax returns to financially harm individuals and businesses. But when disaster struck, so did Mr. Rufai. Whether it was hurricane disaster relief, small business loans, or COVID unemployment benefits, he stole aid that should have gone to disaster victims in the United States.”
According to the US Department of Justice, Rufai, “has agreed to pay full restitution of $604,260 to the defrauded agencies.”
However, “he has not fully cooperated with efforts to identify and forfeit assets that could be used for restitution,” according to the statement.