Abidemi Rufai, a former Senior Special Assistant to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, has pleaded guilty to his role in a $350,763 heist in the United States.
According to The Seattle Times, 45-year-old Rufai pleaded guilty on Tuesday in US District Court in Tacoma to charges that he used stolen Social Security numbers and other personal data to file $350,763 in fake claims for pandemic unemployment benefits in 2020.
The medium also quoted the US Attorney’s Office in Seattle as saying that Rufai pleaded guilty to stealing benefits from other states, as well as another $250,000 from other federal programmes.
From 2017 and 2020, Rufai filed fraudulent claims for $1.7 million in federal tax refunds, of which $90,877 was paid out.
Rufai has agreed to repay the stolen funds, though it wasn’t clear how he would make payments or whether his agreement meant he still had access to the stolen funds.
“He has agreed to disclose all of his assets and to cooperate in US government efforts to recover on those assets,” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson Emily Langlie said in an email Wednesday. “At this point we don’t know what kind of recovery will result.”
Rufai, who has been in custody since his May 2021 arrest at New York’s Kennedy International Airport as he was about to fly to Nigeria, was Abiodun’s aide.
The governor had suspended him and called for thorough investigation into the matter.
Last August, a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, had ordered the interim forfeiture of the funds and properties traced to Rufai.
Justice Tijjani Ringim made the order sequel to an ex parte motion filed and argued by a counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ebuka Okongwu.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the US Department of Justice, District of Washington said Rufai used the pseudonym Sandy Tang and the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with Employment Security Department for unemployment benefits last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The criminal complaint also said Rufai mailed some of the proceeds of his fraud to the Jamaica and New York addresses of his relatives with more than $288,000 deposits between March and August 2020.
Rufai risks 30 years in prison for wire fraud.