If found guilty, Rufai will spend up to 30 years in a U.S prison. Abidemi Rufai, aka Sandy Tang, 42, was arrested on Friday, May 14, 2021, at the JFK Airport in New York on a criminal complaint charging him with wire fraud to the tune of $350,000 or over N144 million.
Reports say Rufai is a top aide on Special Duties to Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun. Pulse has been unable to independently verify this bit of information at the time of reporting. It is also unclear whether Rufai was still on the payroll of the Ogun State government at the time of his arrest. The governor and his office are yet to respond to repeated requests for comments from Pulse.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman, Rufai perpetrated the scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
The statement from the U.S Department of Justice says Rufai resides in the Lekki area of Lagos, Nigeria.
The accused made his initial appearance on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York and is scheduled for a detention hearing on Wednesday.
“Since the first fraud reports to our office in April 2020, we have worked diligently with a federal law enforcement team to track down the criminals who stole funds designated for pandemic relief,” says Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman. “This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD (Employment Security Department) fraud.”
The criminal complaint alleges that Rufai used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
Rufai also filed fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania, according to the statement.
Sandy Tang used variations of a single e-mail address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems.
By using this practice, Rufai made it appear that each claim was connected with a different email account.
The Nigerian then caused the fraud proceeds to be paid out to online payment accounts such as ‘Green Dot’ accounts, or wired to bank accounts controlled by “money mules.”
Some of the proceeds were then mailed to the Jamaica, New York address of Rufai’s relative.
Law enforcement determined that more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020.
“Greed is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, the greed alleged to this defendant affects all taxpayers,” says Donald Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Seattle.
“The FBI and our partners will not stand idly by while individuals attempt to defraud programs meant to assist American workers and families suffering the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
If found guilty, Rufai will spend up to 30 years in prison for his alleged crime.
The case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG).
The fraud on ESD is being investigated cooperatively by the FBI, DOL-OIG, Social Security Office of Inspector General, U.S. Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations.
The Washington Employment Security Department is cooperating in the investigation.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson, Cindy Chang, and Benjamin Diggs of the Western District of Washington, and Trial Attorney Jane Lee of DOJ’s Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).