Court documents filed against Abidemi Rufai, an aide to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, have shown how the suspect was arrested by operatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) following his alleged involvement in a $350,000 (about N140 million) COVID-19 unemployment fraud.
PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday obtained an affidavit sworn before the United State Districts Court at Eastern District of New York by Andrea Desanto, FBI special agent in charge of Mr Rufai’s case.
According to Ms Desanto, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an arrest warrant commanding the arrest of Mr Rufai on May 14, 2021, for violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343 (wire fraud).
“On or about May 13, 2021, law enforcement received information that ABIDEMI RUFAI would be boarding Royal Dutch Airlines flight KL644 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (“JFK Airport”) in Queens, New York to Amsterdam, with a final destination of Lagos, Nigeria.
“At approximately 7:45 p.m. on May 14, 2021, RUFAI arrived at JFK Airport. Law enforcement officers met RUFAI, who waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak to law enforcement officers without an attorney present. While speaking with law enforcement officers, RUFAI verified his name and date of birth,” part of the affidavit read.
“In his possession, RUFAI had, among other things, a Nigerian identification card and various credit cards listing a name matching that of the defendant ABIDEMI RUFAI. In addition, RUFAI had in his possession a Nigerian passport, which listed a name and date of birth matching that of the defendant ABIDEMI RUFAI.
“RUFAI’S appearance matched photographs from the defendant ABIDEMI RUFAI’s passport and identification cards. I further recognized RUFAI from the defendant ABIDEMI RUFAI’s 2019 visa application photograph and from secondary inspection photographs taken by United States Customs and Border Patrol in 2017 and 2020.
“RUFAI’s appearance also matched photographs obtained from the defendant ABIDEMI RUFAI’s social media accounts as well as photographs obtained from the defendant ABIDEMI RUFAI’s Google Drive account pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant, as detailed in the Complaint,” the court affidavit showed.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how Mr Rufai used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steal more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
He is also suspected to be defrauding unemployment programs in Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Wire fraud, according to the United States Department of Justice, is punishable by up to thirty years in prison when it relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
This newspaper also reported how the suspect bypassed security systems at the Employment Security Department using a simple feature of Google’s free Gmail service.
“Rufai used the dot variant addresses to create multiple accounts in the Washington state system that authenticates online users of government services, the complaint alleges. Rufai was then able to file for unemployment benefits with the ESD using stolen personal identities of real Washington residents,” the complaint said.
He was also actively engaged in stealing and retaining the personal identifying information of American citizens.
Following the report on Mr Rufai’s alleged fraud, his principal, Mr Abiodun has announced his suspension from Ogun government.
The suspect has also come under severe attacks on social media as Nigeria criticized him for his involvement in the alleged fraud.
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