A Nigerian politician, Abidemi Rufai has been arrested on Friday evening at JFK Airport in New York on charges of wire fraud for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman announced that Abidemi Rufai, aka Sandy Tang whose documents shows he lives in Lekki, Nigeria, made his initial appearance Saturday May 15, 2021 in New York. He is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday.
“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman. “This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud.”
The criminal complaint alleges that Rufai used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits. Rufai also filed fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania. Rufai used variations of a single e-mail address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems.
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 more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020.
Rufai faces charges of Wire fraud that is punishable by up to thirty years in prison in the United State as his case relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency.
42-year-old Abidemi is a Nigerian politician who works as a senior special assistant to Ogun state governor.
He is not the only Nigerian to be connected with wire fraud in the United States in recent times.
Last year, Dubai police raided a ring of fraudsters led by popular socialite, Hushpuppie. They were arrested and extradited to the US where they are awaiting trials.