A Nigerian citizen , Abidemi Rufai (also known as ‘Sandy Tang’), a Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties to Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, at John F Kennedy Airport, New York over criminal complaint of defrauding Washington State Employment Security Department of $350,000 (N144,375,000).
– Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman confirmed that a Nigerian citizen was arrested Friday evening at JFK Airport in New York on a federal complaint charging him with wire fraud over his attempt to rob over $350,000 in unemployment insurance from the Washington State Employment Security Department. Sandy Tang, alias Abidemi Rufai, 42, of Lekki, Nigeria, made his first appearance in New York on Saturday, May 15, 2021. He has a detention hearing set for Wednesday.
“We have collaborated closely with a federal law enforcement unit to hunt down the suspects who diverted funds intended for pandemic relief after the initial fraud allegations to our office in April 2020,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman. “This is the first major arrest in our current investigation into ESD abuse, but it will not be the last.”
Rufai allegedly used the stolen identity of more than 100 Washington citizens to file false charges with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment insurance, according to the criminal complaint. Rufai has filed false unemployment charges in Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania, among other states. Rufai used variants of a similar e-mail address to avoid detection by automated fraud detection systems. Rufai made it appear that each argument was associated with a separate email address by using this technique.
Rufai had the scam proceeds wired to bank accounts operated by "money mules" or paying out to online payment accounts like "Green Dot" accounts. Any of the proceeds were then mailed to Rufai's relative in Jamaica, New York. Between March and August 2020, more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account operated by Rufai, according to law enforcement.
“Greed is a strong motivator,” says the author. Unfortunately, the defendant's suspected greed concerns all taxpayers,” said Donald Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Seattle field office. “The FBI and our allies will not sit idly by as people want to defraud services designed to help American employees and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
When it comes to benefits paid in conjunction with a presidentially proclaimed catastrophe or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, wire theft is punishable by up to thirty years in jail.
The claims in the lawsuit are just that: allegations. If and unless a person is proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, he or she is presumed innocent.
The FBI prosecuted this case with the help of the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG). The FBI, DOL-OIG, Social Security Office of Inspector General, US Secret Service, US Postal Inspection Service, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations are all working together to prosecute the ESD scam. The probe is being supported by the Washington Employment Security Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson, Cindy Chang, and Benjamin Diggs of the Western District of Washington, as well as Trial Attorney Jane Lee of the Department of Justice's Cyber Crime and Intellectual Property Section, are prosecuting the lawsuits (CCIPS).