The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of Abidemi Rufai, for allegedly defrauding the State of Washington over $350,000 in unemployment benefits through wire fraud. Rufai, aka Sandy Tang, 42, is also a Senior Special Assistant to the Ogun State Governor.
The FBI disclosed this in a social media statement on Monday evening. The accused made his initial appearance on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York and is scheduled for a detention hearing on Wednesday.
What the FBI is saying
“A Nigerian citizen was arrested Friday evening at JFK Airport in New York on a criminal complaint charging him with wire fraud for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department,” announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.
“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
“Rufai 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.
Wire fraud is punishable by up to thirty years in prison when it relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
What you should know
A Nigerian fraud ring known as “Scattered Canary” has been accused of fuelling Covid-related unemployment fraud in the United States in 2020, according to Bloomberg Law. 11 states witnessed an increase in fraudulent unemployment insurance activity fueled by the millions of claims coming in each month and additional federal dollars being offered to the unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Places including Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Washington reported billions of dollars in fraud.
USA Today estimates that international imposter attacks contributed to at least $36 billion being siphoned away from out-of-work Americans.