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COVID-19 Fraud: Ogun Governor’s Aide May Serve At Least 71 Months In US Prison



COVID-19 Fraud: Ogun Governor’s Aide To Serve At Least 71 Months In Prison

Abidemi Rufai, aide to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, is likely to serve at least seventy-one months in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in the United States.

Rufai, who was arrested at New York’s JFK airport in May 2021, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges levelled against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

In a statement on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said Rufai pleaded guilty to using stolen identities to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19 unemployment benefits during his arraignment at the U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

He said since 2017, Rufai unlawfully obtained the personal identifying information of more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2 million in claims for federally funded benefits under a variety of relief programmes while the various agencies involved paid out more than $600,000.

The U.S. authorities said Rufai attempted to obtain more than $1.7 million in IRS tax refunds by submitting 675 false claims between 2017 and 2020 out of which IRS paid out $90,877.

It added that the defendant had also submitted 49 disaster relief claims connected to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in September and October 2017.

Rufai was also said to have filed $24,500 in false claims and was paid on 13 claims, totalling $6,500.

However, according to the plea agreement, Rufai has agreed to pay full restitution to the defrauded agencies but may serve up to 30 years in prison for wire fraud in relation to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency.

It added that aggravated identity theft is punishable by two years in prison to follow any prison term imposed on another charge.

The agreement revealed that prosecutors have agreed to recommend no more than 71 months in prison for the accused.

It, however, noted that the recommendation is not binding on U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle, who will determine the appropriate sentence on August 15, 2022, after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.