Federal Bureau of Investigation has revealed that Abidemi Rufai, the suspended Senior Special Assistant to the Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, has been a wanted person since 2017 for filing 652 fraudulent tax returns in the United States.
According to a court document, the FBI said Rufai has been doing fraudulent activities for years.
The court also heard how the Nigerian politician began his fraud schemes with “hurricane relief in 2017, filing false FEMA claims,” PeoplesGazette reports.
He was accused of filing 652 fraudulent tax returns, trolling the internet looking for U.S. programmes.
“He is a fraudster. And he does this while he is hiding behind a keyboard a thousand miles away. This is someone that the IRS has been trying to identify since 2017,” said the U.S. official.
“We have now identified him, we have an overwhelming case against him, as the defence has 652, and we have him in custody.”
Rufai, who served as the Deputy Director-General of the Dapo Abiodun Campaign Organisation in the last governorship election in the state, was arrested in May 2021 at the JFK Airport in New York, the United States of America, on a criminal complaint of wire fraud for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department, the acting US Attorney, Tessa M. Gorman, announced.
He made his initial appearance in court on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York.
"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 had said.
The criminal complaint alleges that Rufai used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with the ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
He was alleged to have also filed fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania. He used variations of a single email address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems.
Using this practice, Rufai allegedly made it appear that each claim was connected with a different email account.
The US Department of Justice stated 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 deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020.
"Greed is a motivator. Unfortunately, the greed alleged to this defendant affects all taxpayers," said Donald Voiret, Special Agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Seattle.
"The FBI and our partners will not stand idly by while individuals attempt to defraud programmes meant to assist American workers and families suffering the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic," he added.