Suspended Governor Abiodun’s Aide Faces 30 Years Jail Term In US
The suspended Senior Special Assistant to the Ogun State Governor, Abidemi Rufai, faces up to 30 years in prison if he is found guilty of wire fraud.
According to the United States Department of Justice, wire fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison based on benefits paid in connection with a presidential reported disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The acting US Attorney, Tessa M. Gorman, announced that Rufai, who served as the Deputy Director-General of the Dapo Abiodun Campaign Organisation in the last governorship election in the state, was arrested on Friday the 14th of May, 2021, at the JFK Airport in New York, the United States of America, due to an alleged criminal complaint of wire fraud for his scheme to cart away with over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
Rufai, aka Sandy Tang, 42, of Lekki, Lagos, made his first appearance in court on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York. He is scheduled for a detention hearing today (Wednesday, 19th of May, 2021).
“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 the ESD fraud,” Gorman said.
The criminal complaints state that Rufai used the stolen identities of over 100 Washington residents to file criminal claims with the ESD for Covid 19 related unemployment benefits.
In addition to that, he also filed fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania. He used different single email addresses in a way that was intended to bypass automatic detection by fraud systems.
Using this practice, Rufai allegedly made it appear that each claim was related to a different email account.
The United StatesDepartment of Justice revealed on its website that Rufai caused the fraud proceeds to be paid out to online payment accounts such as ‘Green Dot’ accounts or wired to bank accounts controlled by ‘money mules’. Some of the proceeds were then mailed to the Jamaica, New York address of Rufai’s relative.
Law enforcement determined that more than $288,000 was paid into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between the month of March and August 2020.
Donald Voiret, Special Agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigations in Seattle 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,” he added.
The governor of Ogun State, in his reaction, described the arrest as shocking news and ordered the immediate suspension of Rufai.
Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, Abiodun, in a statement ordered the immediate suspension of Rufai, who is his close ally, because of the grievousness of the allegation.
The statement read, “The Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, has received the alarming news of the arrest of one of his political appointees, Mr. Abidemi Rufai, in New York over alleged unemployment benefits fraud in the United States.
“Because of the gravity of these allegations, the governor has ordered the immediate suspension of the accused appointee. We will not condone any act bordering on criminality by anyone.”
Furthermore, The Chairman of the PDP in the state, Sikitullah Ogundele, said in an interview that the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State Regard Rufai’s arrest as a major embarrassment.
According to the chairman, the arrest of Rufai was proof that people of questionable character were in the political system.
Ogundele stated, “People of questionable character should be kept away from our system. Unfortunately, the governor of Ogun State has chosen somebody of dubious character, and it is an embarrassment to the entire state.
“It is not the fault of the person that appointed him, but personalities must be well-vetted before they are given appointments.”