The United States Department of Justice has written to the United States Magistrate Judge in Eastern District of New York, Ramon Reyes, claiming that the surety provided by suspected Nigerian fraudster, Abidemi Rufai, is also a suspected fraudster.
Acting U.S. Attorney, Tessa Gorma, in a letter to the court on Sunday, said the “surety is a suspect in an investigation into an email impersonation scheme.”
Mr Rufai was arrested while trying to get out of the U.S. on May 14.
He was accused of allegedly using the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steal more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Last Tuesday, his lawyer, Michael Barrow, said Mr Rufai denied “involvement in these transactions.”
His first appearance in court was Wednesday and he was denied bail because his brother, Alaba Rufai, who is listed in court records, could not post the $300,000 surety bond for his bail.
However, a surety was presented on Friday with the court ruling that a New York state resident and family friend of Mr Rufai could post the bond.
The surety, Nekpen Soyemi, a registered nurse, whose family comes from Nigeria, told the court that she would guarantee the $300,000 bond and allow Mr Rufai to stay at her and her husband’s home.
The Magistrate Judge, Mr Reyes, delayed the release of Mr Rufai until May 25 to give enough time to federal prosecutors to appeal the order.
The Acting U.S. Attorney, Ms Gorma, said in her letter to the court that Ms Soyemi is a suspected fraudster and should not be allowed to stand surety for Mr Rufai.
“First, the FBI has conducted research into the Surety and has learned information indicating that the Surety is not an appropriate person to perform that role,” the letter partly read.
“In 2015, the Surety’s bank (Bank of America) issued a report naming the Surety as a suspect in an investigation into an email impersonation scheme.
“According to the bank’s report, a person purporting to be a donor deposited $134,000 into the bank account of a legitimate nonprofit. The “donor” (who was never identified) then contacted the non-profit and stated that some of the deposited funds were intended for a different recipient.
“The donor asked the non-profit to wire the excess funds to three different accounts, one of which was a Bank of America account in the Surety’s name. The report indicates that the Surety then made cash withdrawals of the proceeds at two different B of A locations. The Surety did not respond to inquiries from Bank of America.
“Second, FBI’s research was unable to confirm that the Surety owns the listed real property. Mortgage and deed records for the property indicate that it was last purchased by an individual with the initials L.S.G. on November 7, 2014.”
She further said that the FBI could not locate records showing that the Surety has an interest in the property.
“The Surety has also submitted records showing that she has $335 in Robinhood investment account and $1,838 in a checking account. Neither submission suggests the Surety is in a position to secure a $300,000 bond.”
The U.S. government earlier told the court that it is dangerous to release Mr Rufai on bail, claiming the suspect presents an extreme risk of flight and “if he does escape to Nigeria, extradition will be extraordinarily difficult or impossible because of his ties to the Nigerian government.”
Abidemi Rufai is a Nigerian politician who served as senior special adviser to Ogun state governor, Mr. Dapo Abiodun. Local reports indicate that he has since been terminated by the governor after his arrest last week.