A United State District Court in Tacoma, Washington, has sentenced Rufai Abidemi, a suspended aide of Dapo Abiodun, the Ogun State Governor, to five years imprisonment for wire fraud and identity theft.
According to a statement released by the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington, on Monday, Abidemi admitted to using stolen identities to defraud US disaster programmes and filing fraudulent US tax returns.
“A 45-year-old resident of Lekki, Nigeria, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 5 years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for his attempt to steal nearly $2.4 million from the United States government, including approximately $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown,” the statement reads in part.
Benjamin Settle, a US district judge, said at the sentencing that Abidemi’s motivation was greed, unrestrained greed and callousness towards those who had suffered.
“Mr. Rufai was relentless in his scheme to use the stolen identities of Americans for fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “He orchestrated ‘mystery shopper’ scams, 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.
“Abdemi Rufai chose to exploit the pandemic for personal gain, using stolen identities of Americans to support his lavish lifestyle overseas,” said Associate Deputy Attorney General Kevin Chambers, the Justice Department‘s Director of COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and their law enforcement partners did exceptional work in bringing this defendant to justice. The Department will continue to pursue fraudsters who abused these programmes and seek to recover their ill-gotten gains, whether they are in the United States or overseas.”
The statement showed that records filed since 2017 made it clear that Abidemi stole the personal identifying information of more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2 million in claims for disaster relief benefits and fraudulent tax returns. The various agencies involved paid out more than $600,000.
“The Employment Security Department deeply appreciates the tireless efforts of the Department of Justice, federal agencies and law enforcement in this matter,” said Cami Feek, Commissioner for the Employment Security Department. “We always stand ready to hold those accountable who steal public funds, and we appreciate the partnership in catching and prosecuting this individual.”
“Between 2017 and 2020, Rufai attempted to obtain more than $1.7 million in IRS tax refunds by submitting 675 false claims. The IRS paid out $90,877 on these claims.
“Rufai’s efforts to exploit disasters in the United States did not start with COVID-19. In September and October 2017, he submitted 49 disaster relief claims connected to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. He filed $24,500 in false claims and was paid on 13 claims totaling $6,500.”
Abidemi has been in custody since his arrest at New York’s JFK airport in May 2021.
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