During the COVID-19 pandemic, Abidemi Rufai, alias “Sandy Tang,” a senior special assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, was arrested in the United States on charges of stealing over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD).
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Between March and October 2020, the 42-year-old allegedly made dozens of jobless claims using stolen identities in order to steal the money.
Rufai was apprehended at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport while attempting to flee to Nigeria, and has been charged with wire fraud involving over $350,000 in unemployment payments in the United States.
Rufai had utilised a single Gmail account to file 102 ESD benefit applications, as well as benefit claims in ten additional states.
He allegedly used a feature of Gmail that lets users to establish numerous different email accounts simply by adding one or more periods to the original email address to get through security mechanisms at ESD.
However, he was apprehended after a federal judge issued a search warrant for his Gmail account, allowing investigators to search it.
Following that, a search of the mail turned up his Nigerian phone number, which was associated with the account.
He had also used the same recovery phone number to apply for a US visa in 2019, and the photo he submitted in the visa application and other government documents were stored in a Google Drive account linked to the Gmail account.
Investigators also discovered a vast cache of tax returns and evidence that Rufai was reportedly involved in multiple other fraud schemes, as well as confirmation emails for items that identified his brother’s address in Jamaica, New York, as the billing address, as well as a vast cache of confirmation emails for products that identified his brother’s address in Jamaica, New York, as the billing address.
He placed $288,825 into his bank account, according to records, and if convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
“This is the first, but far from the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation into ESD fraud,” Tessa Gorman, acting US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement on Monday.
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