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Dapo Abiodun’s aide, Abidemi Rufai, arrested in US over $650m fraud

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Abidemi Rafiu, an aide to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State has been arrested in the United States of America in connection with a $650 million unemployment fraud.

Mr. Rafiu was arrested on Friday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport by federal agents as he allegedly attempted to leave the country.

He appeared in federal court Saturday on charges that he used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steal more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud,” said Tessa Gorman, acting US attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a statement Monday.

Rufai is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday.

His arrest comes almost a year after officials announced they were temporarily suspending unemployment benefits payments after discovering that criminals had used stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information to file bogus claims for federal and state unemployment benefits.

Within days, officials disclosed that “hundreds of millions of dollars” had likely been stolen in a fraud scheme that law enforcement officials and cybercrime experts said was partly based in Nigeria.

A House of Representatives aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress in the 2019 election, Rufai was appointed senior special assistant to Governor Abiodun in August 2020.

A statement by the US Department of Justice noted that “wire fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison when it relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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