Abidemi Rufai, a suspended aide to Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, was given a five-year prison term for fraud by a US district court.
In May 2021, Rufai was detained at JFK Airport in New York while en route to Nigeria.
The US Department of Justice reported in May 2022 that Rufai admitted using stolen identities to obtain thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits related to the pandemic.
Additionally, he admitted to obtaining the personal data of over 20,000 Americans in 2017, filing $2 million in claims for disaster aid and other federal benefits, and receiving over $600,000.
The Washington State Employment Security Department was the target of the largest fraud, which resulted in payments of $350,763 in false pandemic unemployment claims to accounts under Rufai's control.
Rufai was also said to have submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states, including Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.
In asking for a nearly six-year prison sentence, Cindy Chang, assistant United States attorney stated that Rufai’s scam hurt actual people, who needed assistance.
“In this case, Rufai successfully used the stolen identities of at least 238 real individuals who qualified for disaster aid and may have needed it urgently. This number does not account for the number of stolen identities Rufai attempted to use but failed,” she said.
At the sentencing hearing on Monday, Benjamin Settle, US district judge, said: “The motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and a callousness towards those who have suffered.”
Nick Brown, US attorney said: “Mr Rufai was relentless in his scheme to use the stolen identities of Americans for fraud.”
“He orchestrated ‘mystery shopper’ scams, and 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.”