Abidemi Rufai, aka ‘Sandy Tang,’ a senior special assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State has been arrested in the United States over theft of over $350,000 unemployment benefits from the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 42-year-old allegedly submitted dozens of unemployment claims using stolen identities between March and October 2020 to steal the fund.
Rufai was nabbed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while trying to escape to Nigeria and has been charged with wiring over $350,000 in unemployment benefits in the U.S.
Rufai had used a single Gmail account to file 102 claims for ESD benefits and also used it to file for benefits in 10 other states.
He had allegedly bypassed security systems at ESD using a simple feature of Gmail which allows users to create many additional email addresses simply by adding one or more periods to the original email address.
However, he was busted following a federal judge warrant to Gmail, allowing investigators to search his e-mail account.
A subsequent search of the mail revealed his Nigerian phone number which was linked to the account.
He had also used the same recovery phone number to apply for US Visa in 2019 while a Google Drive account associated with the Gmail account included the picture he used in the visa application and other government documents.
Investigators also discovered confirmation emails for products that listed his brother’s address in Jamaica, New York, as the billing address as well as a massive cache of tax returns and evidence that Rufai was allegedly involved in numerous other fraud schemes.
Records showed that he deposited $288,825 into his bank account and face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.
“This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud,” said Tessa Gorman, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a statement Monday.