Abidemi Rufai, a suspended aide to Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, was sentenced to five years in prison by a US District Court in Western Tacoma, Washington, for fraud.
The US Department of Justice announced that Mr. Rufai was sentenced on Monday for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The statement cited trial judge Benjamin Settle as saying, “The motivation was greed, unbridled greed, and a callousness towards those who have suffered.”
Rufai was arrested in New York in May 2021 as he was about to board a flight. He has been in detention since then.
He unlawfully obtained the personal identifying information for more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2 million in claims for federally funded benefits under a variety of relief programmes. The various agencies involved paid out more than $600,000.
The largest amount of fraud was committed against the Washington State Employment Security Department, which paid out $350,763 in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims to accounts controlled by Rufai. Rufai also submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states.
The 45-year-old also defrauded the Small Business Administration (SBA) by attempting to obtain Economic Injury Disaster loans (EIDL) tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April 8, 2020, and June 26, 2020, he submitted 19 fraudulent EIDL applications. SBA paid out $10,000 based on the applications.
Rufai pleaded guilty to the charges in May 2022. Based on his plea agreement with the prosecution, he agreed to pay full restitution of $604,260 to the defrauded agencies.
But the Department of Justice’s statement said he “has not fully cooperated with efforts to identify and forfeit assets that could be used for restitution.”