Journalism of Courage

$350,000 wire fraud in U.S.: Ogun Governor’s Special Assistant, Abidemi Rufai, enters guilty plea

...on conviction, Rufai risks 32 years imprisonment


A Special Assistant to Ogun Governor,45-year-old Abidemi Rufai, arrested in connection with massive wire fraud against Washington state’s pandemic relief efforts has plead guilty before a federal court.

Rufai of Lekki in Lagos admitted in U.S. District Court in Tacoma that he used stolen identities to receive more than $350,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits from Washington state.

He also admitted earlier frauds since 2017, he had obtained identifying information for more than 20,000 Americans, submitted $2 million in claims for disaster relief and other federal benefits, and received more than $600,000, prosecutors told the court.

Rufai was arrested at New York’s JFK Airport on his way to Nigeria in May 2021.

The case against him helped illustrate how Washington’s Employment Security Department had succumbed to widespread fraud — paying out some $650 million in bogus claims before recovering about $380 million — as it tried to distribute benefits designed to help people financially weather the pandemic.

Rufai employed a feature of Gmail, Google’s free email service, that let him use a single email account, altered by the addition of periods to the address, to file multiple unemployment claims in Washington and elsewhere using stolen Social Security numbers and other personal data.

On conviction, Rufai risks 32 years imprisonment for wire fraud related to a presidentially declared disaster and aggravated identity theft.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend less than six years, Seattle U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a statement.

Rufai also agreed to pay restitution to the agencies he defrauded, though his ability to do that remained unclear.


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