A United States court on Monday sentenced Abidemi Rufai, an ex-aide to the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, to five years imprisonment.
A District Court in Western Tacoma, Washington, United States on Monday imprisoned him after finding him guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
His imprisonment was confirmed in a statement by the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington.
The statement said in part that Rufai, “A 45-year-old resident of Lekki, Nigeria, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to five years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for his attempt to steal nearly $2.4m from the United States government, including approximately $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.”
Until his arrest, Rufai was a Special Assistant to the Ogun State Governor.
According to the statement, he admitted to a long history of using stolen identities to defraud US disaster programs, including aid for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and to file false US tax returns.
During the sentencing hearing, US District Judge Benjamin Settle stated that the motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and callousness toward those who had suffered.
Mr. Rufai, according to US Attorney Nick Brown, was tenacious in his scheme to commit fraud using stolen American identities.
“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,” Brown said.
The Associate Deputy Attorney-General, Kevin Chambers, the Justice Department‘s Director of COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement, said, ”Abdemi Rufai chose to exploit the pandemic for personal gain, using stolen identities of Americans to support his lavish lifestyle overseas.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and their law enforcement partners did exceptional work bringing this defendant to justice. The Department will continue to pursue fraudsters who abused these programs and seek to recover their ill-gotten gains, whether they are in the United States or overseas.”
According to court documents, Rufai stole the personal identifying information of over 20,000 Americans in 2017 and used it to file more than $2 million in claims for federally funded disaster relief benefits and fraudulent tax returns.
“The various agencies involved paid out more than $600,000. 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 also submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states.
“The Employment Security Department deeply appreciates the tireless efforts of the Department of Justice, federal agencies and law enforcement in this matter.
“We always stand ready to hold those accountable who steal public funds and we appreciate the partnership in catching and prosecuting this individual,” the Commissioner for the Employment Security Department, Cami Feek, said in the statement.