How Did Governor Abiodun’s Aide Execute $350,000 Wire Fraud?

Abidemi Rufai, suspended Senior Special Assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun allegedly defrauded Washington State Employment Security Department using 10 different means.

Rufai has been in custody since his arrest on May 14, 2021, at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. His indictment led to his suspension as a Senior Special Assistant on special duties to Ogun State Governor.

Though he applied for bail, the application was denied as his brother could not afford the $300,000 “surety bond”. He was later detained at the Western District of Washington from where is attending court proceedings.

The suspended Ogun governor’s aide allegedly attempted to defraud the US agency using a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted on March 27, 2020 in the United States.

The CARES Act authorised approximately $2 trillion in aid to American workers, families, and businesses to mitigate the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act funded, and authorised each state to administer new unemployment benefits such as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) for unemployed workers, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed persons, independent contractors and others; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance , which extends benefits for an additional 13 weeks after regular unemployment benefits are exhausted.

CARES Act unemployment benefits are funded by the United States government through the Department of Labor, and administered at the state level by state agencies known as state workforce agencies (SWAs). The Washington Employment Security Department is the SWA for the State of Washington, which Rufai attempted to defraud.

Also, the 42 year old Nigerian is charged for conspiracy. According to the documents, Rufai and other co-conspirators began their moves on April 27, 2020, and continuing through at least on or about June 2, 2020, at Olympia, within the Western District of Washington, and elsewhere.

In addition, the documents revealed that 10 conducts were part of the conspiracy used by Rufai to engage in the alleged wired fraud.

  1. Rufai and his co-conspirators unlawfully obtained, possessed and shared with one another the PII of residents of Washington and other states, including their names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers.
  2. Rufai and his co-conspirators created email accounts, including an account administered by Google Inc., (“Google”) with the address “[email protected],” for the purpose of participating in fraudulent transactions while obscuring their identities.
  3. With the use of foreign and interstate wire transmissions, Rufai and his co-conspirators accessed ESD’s SAW portal, as well as similar portals of other SWAs, including SWAs for the states of Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Each time Rufai or a co-conspirator accessed the Washington SAW portal, he or she caused wire transmissions terminating and originating at the State Data Center in Olympia, Washington.
  4. To establish SAW accounts, Rufai and his co-conspirators provided the [email protected] email address to ESD as the designated email address to receive activation emails. Each time Rufai or a co-conspirator input this email address into the SAW system, an activation email was sent to the [email protected] email account.
  5. Each of these emails was sent via an interstate wire transmission originating from the State Data Center in Olympia, Washington and passing through a Google data center outside the state of Washington.
  6. To prevent ESD and other SWAs from recognizing that the same email account was being used to file multiple claims, Rufai and his co-conspirators used dozens of variants of the email address by placing periods at different locations within the email address for each claim. For example, RUFAI opened SAW accounts and submitted claims using the variants “[email protected],” “[email protected],” and “[email protected].”
  7. In routing emails to a Gmail account, Google disregards periods within the email address (e.g., “[email protected]” is routed to the same account as “[email protected]”). As a result, Google delivered all of the emails to the [email protected] account. By using these email address variants, Rufai and his co-conspirators were able to file multiple claims using the same email account, without BSD and other SWAs detecting that they were doing so.
  8. Upon completing applications, Rufai and his co-conspirators directed that some of the benefits be paid to online payment accounts, including accounts administered by the Green Dot Corporation. In other cases, Rufai and his co- conspirators directed that the fraudulent benefit payments be made to bank accounts controlled by persons known as “money mules,” who withdrew and transferred the funds according to instructions given by Rufai and his co-conspirators.
  9. Rufai and his co-conspirators directed the money mules to send a portion of the proceeds to the residence of Rufai’s brother in Jamaica, New York, where Rufai was then staying.
  10. The wire fraud that was the object of this conspiracy occurred in relation to, and involved, benefit payments authorized, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, and paid in connection with the presidentially declared major disaster and emergency.

Credit: Punch Newspaper

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