Abidemi Rufai, the suspended aide of Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, has been sentenced to five years in prison for fraud.
After Rufai was arrested at New York’s JFK Airport on his way to Nigeria in May 2021, he admitted using stolen identities to receive thousands of dollars in pandemic-related unemployment benefits a year after.
He was said to have admitted to having obtained identifying information for more than 20,000 Americans, submitting $2 million in claims for disaster relief and other federal benefits, and received more than $600,000 since 2017.
Suspended Aide Of Ogun Governor Barged Five-Year Jail Term Over $350k Fraud
According to the US authorities, 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 was also said to have submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states including Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.
In her argument, the Assistant United States Attorney stated that Rufai’s scam hurt actual people who needed assistance and asked for a nearly six-year prison sentence.
“In this case, Rufai successfully used the stolen identities of at least 238 real individuals who qualified for disaster aid and may have needed it urgently. This number does not account for the number of stolen identities Rufai attempted to use but failed,” she said.
In his ruling on Monday, US district judge Benjamin H. Settle blamed Rufai’s action on greed and callousness.
“The motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and a callousness towards those who have suffered,” he said.
On his part, US attorney, Nick Brown, said Rufai was relentless in his scheme to use the stolen identities of Americans for fraud.
“He orchestrated ‘mystery shopper’ scams, and 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.
However, a statement by the US department of justice, 45-year-old Rufai indicated that Rufai “has agreed to pay full restitution of $604,260 to the defrauded agencies”.
“He has not fully cooperated with efforts to identify and forfeit assets that could be used for restitution.”