The governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, has suspended his aide, Abidemi Rufai, who was arrested in the United States for an alleged $350,000 (about N140 million) COVID-19 unemployment fraud.
Kunle Somorin, Mr Abiodun’s chief press secretary, confirmed the suspension to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.
“Our position is that the law should take its course,” Mr Somorin said in a Whatsapp interview.
“Meanwhile, the governor has ordered his immediate suspension from office to answer charges against him.”
Sources within the government told PREMIUM TIMES that the governor took the action immediately he was briefed about Mr Rufai’s arrest.
This newspaper earlier reported that Mr Rufai, Senior Special Assistant to Mr Abiodun, was arrested last Friday, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York before boarding a flight to Amsterdam.
He is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday.
The money wired is said to be unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
This newspaper understands that wire fraud, according to the United States Department of Justice, is punishable by up to 30 years in prison when it relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said in a statement that his team “worked diligently with a federal law enforcement team to track down the criminals who stole funds designated for pandemic relief since the first fraud reports to their office in April 2020″.
Mr Rufai reportedly used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits, the statement added.
He is also accused of filing fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.
“The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson, Cindy Chang, and Benjamin Diggs of the Western District of Washington, and Trial Attorney Jane Lee of DOJ’s Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS),” Mr Gorman said in a statement on the United States Department of Justice website.
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