Gov Dapo Abiodun’s Aide, Abidemi Rufai Arrested Over $350m COVID-19 Unemployment Fraud In US


Gov Dapo Abiodun’s Aide, Abidemi Rufai Arrested Over $350m COVID-19 Unemployment Fraud In USAbidemi Rufai, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State and former House of Reps aspirant, has been arrested in the United States for alleged $350 million fraud.

According to US Department of Justice in a statement, Rufai, whom FBI agents recognised from social media accounts and images from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while they said he was trying to leave the country last week Friday.

Acting U.S. Attorney, Tessa M. Gorman accused Rufai of using an alias, Sandy Tang, to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD).

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The politician, the DoJ said, stole the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

Investigators said Rufai, who was appointed by Ogun state governor in August 2020, used small variations in email addresses in a Gmail account, which made it appear like he was multiple people, to slip through fraud detection at ESD.

He primarily uses the address but would scatter periods in variations like and

However, investigators said Gmail addresses do not recognise periods (.), so anything sent to the different addresses went straight to Rufai’s inbox.

Read Also: Dubai Police Release Short Film ‘FoxHunt2’ On How Hushpuppi, Woodberry, Others Were Tailed And Arrested For Online Fraud (Video)

Rufai reportedly replicated his fraudulent unemployment claims in Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The proceeds of his fraudulent claims were paid out to online payment accounts such as ‘Green Dot’ accounts, or wired to bank accounts controlled by “money mules.”

The criminal complaint also said Rufai mailed some of the proceeds of his fraud to Jamaica and New York addresses of his relatives with more than $288,000 deposits between March and August 2020.

Read Also: Hushpuppi Laundered Funds For North Korean Hackers, Says US Department Of Justice

Gorman stated;

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.

On his part, Special Agent in Charge FBI Seattle, Donald Voiret, said;

Greed is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, the greed alleged to this defendant affects all taxpayers. 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.

Rufai made his initial appearance last Saturday in New York and he scheduled for a detention hearing on Wednesday, May 19.

If found guilty, Rufai may spend up to thirty years in prison as the fraud relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially declared disaster or emergency.

US law enforcement agents have been tracking the activities of scammers linked to Nigeria who were exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to commit wire fraud, at least, since May 2020.

Read Also: Interpol Traces €500,000 COVID-19 Fraud To Nigeria

In May 2020, United States Secret Service said in internal memo May 2020 that a “well-orchestrated” COVID-19-related fraud targeting multiple American states was traced back to Nigeria.

The memo was reportedly sent to Secret Service’s field offices across the US on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

Secret Service said the fraudsters are exploring the COVID-19 pandemic to commit massive fraud against by targeting unemployment insurance programmes.

This is not the first time a Nigerian is arrested on suspicion of being wire fraudsters or money launderers.

Read Also: Nigerian Man Remanded For Defrauding US Govt Of $8,000

MDB reported that socialite, Raymond Igbalode, also known as Hushpuppi, was last year extradited to the US for trial over cyber fraud after his arrest in Dubai.

Hushpuppi and other members of his crew allegedly perpetrated fraud amounting to 1.6 billion dirham (N168bn).

At least 1,926,400 persons from different parts of the world were also said to have fallen victim to the suspects. Also, 13 luxury cars, estimated at 35 million dirham (N3.7bn) were recovered from the house, where the suspects were arrested.

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