The trial of Abidemi Rufai, Ogun Governor Dapo Abiodun’s aide on special duties, has been adjourned following Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s uncovering of over 100,000 pages of evidence involving Mr Rufai in tax and disaster fraud.
This is contained in court documents from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington seen by Peoples Gazette.
“The trial date presently scheduled for February 1, 2022, is continued to May 31, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. The pretrial conference is rescheduled for May 23, 2022, at 2:00 p.m., and the pretrial motions cutoff date is April 8, 2022,” the document said.
It added, “The period of delay resulting from this continuance from the current trial date of February 1, 2022 to the new trial date of May 31, 2022, is hereby excluded for speedy trial purposes under 18 USC § 3161(h)(8)(A) and (B) for purposes of computing the time limitations imposed by the Speedy Trial Act, 18 USC § 3161-3174.”
The document, filed and dated January 11, revealed that Mr Rufai was made aware of this motion, had no objection to it, and will be filing the waiver for a speedy trial. This is despite the initial pretrial conference set for January 24 and the trial date for February 1, 2022.
The court documents described the investigation in Mr Rufai’s case as “voluminous and complex.”
“The government had produced over 100,000 pages of discovery material. The discovery includes electronic documents in a variety of formats. Further, in addition to the transactions described in the indictment, which relate to alleged fraud involving unemployment benefits, the government has also produced material relating to allegedly fraudulent claims for tax refunds and disaster relief,” the court document added.
In May 2021, The Seattle Times reported that Mr Rufai had been apprehended by security personnel in New York as he tried to flee the U.S. to Nigeria via Amsterdam. Mr Rufai appeared before a federal court a day after his arrest on charges alleging he used the identities of over 100 Washington residents to fraudulently receive more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Mr Abiodun announced the suspension of Mr Rufai as his aide, following The Gazette’s report of the indictment of the accused.
The court documents listed that on May 26, 2021, Mr Rufai was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft.
Mr Rufai’s bail terms were compromised after the FBI uncovered irregularities in the surety he presented before the court. The Gazette reported that Nekpen Soyemi, a nurse identified to be Mr Rufai’s friend, was once suspected of a business email compromise scam by the Bank of America. As such, prosecutors advised the judge to rescind Mr Rufai’s bail and instead remand him in custody indefinitely, as he posed a flight risk.
Wanted by security personnel since 2017, Mr Rufai was found using the alias Sandy Tang linked to possible unemployment programmes fraud in Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Federal investigators identified Mr Rufai through a single Gmail account which he used to file 102 claims for unemployment benefits, using stolen personal identities of real Washington residents.
The investigation revealed over 1,000 emails from the ESD and about 100 emails from other states’ unemployment systems, and from Green Dot, an online payment system reportedly used for stolen unemployment benefits.
Emails containing bank and credit card numbers, birth dates and other personal identifying information, images of driver’s licences, and “a very large volume” of tax returns of U.S. taxpayers were also found in Mr Rufai’s possession.
The recovery phone number listed to Mr Rufai’s Google account was a Nigerian number matching his 2019 U.S. visa application, and pictures matching Mr Rufai’s physical appearance in his 2019 visa application were seen in the linked Google Drive account.
He faces up to 30 years in jail for wire fraud “in connection to a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”