The United States Courthouse, in Tacoma, Washington, has ruled that the suspended aide of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Abidemi Rufai, cannot be released on bail.
Mr Rufai is facing $350,000 fraud charges in the United States.
On Friday, U.S. District judge, Benjamin Settle of Tacoma, agreed with federal prosecutors that Mr Rufai represented a flight risk, hence he will remain in jail until his trial.
Mr Settle said the “defendant poses a serious risk of non-appearance. No condition or combination of conditions can reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance as required,” The Seattle Times reports.
The judge further ordered that Mr Rufai, who is in detention in New York, be transported by federal marshals to Washington for trial, which is set for August 31.
‘Fraudulent surety scheme’
The decision of the court comes after Acting U.S. Attorney, Tessa Gorma, accused Mr Rufai of participating in fraudulent surety scheme.
Mr Rufai was said to have presented a person he barely knew to the court as his friend in his desperate bid to get a surety for the bail earlier granted him by a U.S. magistrate’s court.
The government said it got a transcript of a recorded call between Mr Rufai and his brother, discussing the surety matter on May 25, four days after a hearing on his detention.
Responding to the claims, however, Mr Rufai, through his lawyer, Michael Barrows, said the government failed to establish the allegations against his client.
Mr Barrows said “a review of the government’s most recent memorandum, purporting to depict Mr Rufai’s informal and innocuous conversation with his brother – where they each refer to the surety as ‘lady’ – as evidence of a “fraudulent surety scheme” is both self-serving and unsupported by the transcripts themselves.”
Mr Rufai was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while heading to Nigeria on May 14.
He was said to have 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.
At the end of a detention hearing held on May 19, 2021, the Magistrate of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Ramon Reyes, agreed with the government that Mr Rufai posed “a serious flight risk”, but found that the risk could be addressed by conditions of release, including a $300,000 bond.
The magistrate went on to issue an order releasing Mr Rufai based on the bond in which Mr Rufai’s brother, who is licensed as an attorney in New York, was proposed as surety.
Mr Rufai was not released because his brother did not sign the bail bond. The suspect was then remanded pending when he would provide an alternate surety.
Following the refusal of Mr Rufai’s brother to stand as a surety, the defendant’s lawyer, Michael Barrows, on May 21, presented Nekpen Soyemi, a registered nurse, whose family comes from Nigeria.
Now, U.S. findings have further shown that Mr Rufai planted the surety and they never knew each other before now. He has denied this.
The U.S. government on May 24 filed an emergency motion of stay release order before the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma. The court granted the government’s motion as the U.S. uncovered more criminal activities involving the suspect.
A federal grand jury in late May ratified the charges involving conspiracy, wire fraud and “aggravated identity theft” against Mr Rufai.
He was subsequently arraigned on fraud charges before a United States Courthouse, in Tacoma, Washington.
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