Sunday, February 5, 2023

Governor Abiodun’s moneybag Bidemi Rufai pleads guilty in U.S., to pay $607,000, forfeit assets

For the offence of wire fraud, Mr Rufai stands to face up to 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $1,000,000, a period of supervision following release from prison of up to five years.

• May 4, 2022
Abidemi Rufai and Dapo Abiodun
Abidemi Rufai and Dapo Abiodun

Abidemi Rufai, suspended aide of Governor Dapo Abiodun, has pleaded guilty to charges levelled against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

He was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. 

Mr Rufai entered a plea agreement on Tuesday, according to court documents from the district court for the western district of Washington.

Under statement of facts, the court documents outlined Mr Rufai’s offences.

It noted that Mr Rufai “obtained the personal identifying information (PII)…of more than 20,000 unwitting 11 Americans… through unlawful means, including by misusing the Internal Revenue Service’s Data Retrieval Tool.” 

It also noted that Mr Rufai “used this stolen PII to fraudulently obtain 15 federally-funded benefits under a variety of relief programs, and by submitting fraudulent 16 claims for tax refunds, in the names of the Americans.”

Mr Rufai is to pay $607,377 as restitution.

He is also required to list all assets linked to him, including through his spouse and proxies, that will be seized if he is unable to pay the $607,377.

“Defendant agrees to disclose all assets in which defendant has any interest or over which defendant exercises control, directly or indirectly, including those held by a spouse, nominee, or third party,” said the document. “Defendant agrees to cooperate fully with the United States investigation identifying all property in which defendant has an interest and with the United States’ lawful efforts to enforce prompt payment of the financial obligations to be imposed in connection with this prosecution.” 

All proceeds linked to fraudulent activities will be traced and forfeited to the U.S. government.

In May 2021, Peoples Gazette reported that Mr Rufai had been apprehended by security personnel in New York as he tried to flee the U.S. to Nigeria via Amsterdam. Mr Rufai appeared before a federal court a day after his arrest on charges alleging he used the identities of over 100 Washington residents to fraudulently receive more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

The court documents listed that on May 26, 2021, Mr Rufai was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft. 

Mr Rufai’s bail terms were compromised after the FBI uncovered irregularities in the surety he presented before the court. The Gazette reported that Nekpen Soyemi, a nurse identified to be Mr Rufai’s friend, was once suspected of a business email compromise scam by the Bank of America.

In January, Mr Rufai’s trial was adjourned after the FBI uncovered over 100,000 pages of evidence involving him in tax and disaster fraud.

His sentencing has been set for August 15. 

For the offence of wire fraud, Mr Rufai stands to face up to 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $1,000,000, a period of supervision following release from prison of up to five years, and for the offence of aggravated identity theft; a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years, which must be consecutive to any other sentence, a fine of up to $250,000, a period of supervision following release from prison of up to one year, and a mandatory special assessment of $100.

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