Abidemi Rufai, Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties to Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, arrested in the US over alleged $350,000 employment scam, is scheduled to face a detention hearing today (Wednesday).
He was said to have used the stolen identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claims with ESD for pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
According to a statement by Acting United States Attorney Tessa Gorman, Rufai, who was arrested on Friday evening at JFK Airport in New York, will face a criminal charge of wire fraud “for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.”
Embarrassed by his arrest, the Ogun State Government has promptly relieved him of his job and dissociated itself from the employment scam.
Wire fraud is punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison when it relates to benefits paid in connection with a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency.
Details of his arrest and alleged crime are contained in the statement from the US, titled, ‘Nigerian citizen charged with defrauding Washington State Employment Security Department of over $350,000’ by the Department’.
The statement disclosed that Rufai who allegedly disguised as ‘Sandy Tang’ made his initial appearance on Saturday in New York.
Gorman said, “Since the first fraud reports to our office in April 2020, we have worked diligently with a federal law enforcement team to track down the criminals who stole funds designated for pandemic relief.
“This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud.”
The statement read in part, “Rufai also filed fraudulent unemployment claims with Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.
“Rufai used variations of a single e-mail address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems.
“By using this practice, Rufai made it appear that each claim was connected with a different email account.
“Rufai caused the fraud proceeds to be paid out to online payment accounts such as ‘Green Dot’ accounts, or wired to bank accounts controlled by ‘money mules.’
“Some of the proceeds were then mailed to the Jamaica, New York address of Rufai’s relative.
“Law enforcement determined more than $288,000 was deposited into an American bank account controlled by Rufai between March and August 2020.
“Greed is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, the greed alleged to this defendant affects all taxpayers.”
“The FBI and our partners will not stand idly by while individuals attempt to defraud programmes meant to assist American workers and families suffering the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Donald Voiret, Special Agent in Charge FBI Seattle.
Gunmen attack Rivers SDP gov candidate Magnus Abe campaign train
Gunmen suspected to be hired assassins on Monday evening attacked the campaign train of the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Rivers State, Senator Magnus Abe.
The gunmen, according to Leadership, carried out the attack at Akinima community in the Ahoada-West local government area of the state.
Abe and his team had earlier visited Ubeta and other communities in the area before heading for Akinima, the headquarters of the local government area, when they came under heavy gun attack.
DSS intercepts syndicates selling new currency notes
The Department of State Services (DSS) said it has intercepted some syndicates in parts of the country for their involvement in selling the new redesigned Naira notes.
The service disclosed this in a statement on Monday by its spokesman,Dr Peter Afunanya saying that the syndicates were intercepted by operatives of the service during an operation.
“Investigation has also shown that some Commercial Bank officials were aiding the economic malfeasance.
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“Consequently, the Service warns the currency racketeers to desist from this ignoble act.
“Appropriate regulatory authorities are, in this same vein,urged to step up monitoring and supervisory activities to expeditiously address the emerging trends,”he said.
He said the DSS has ordered its commands and formations to further ensure that all persons and groups engaged in the illegal sale of the notes were identified.
The DSS spokesman, therefore, urged anyone with useful information relating to the sales of the new currency to pass the same to relevant authorities.
Accidents: FRSC boss recommends truck barrier on Ojuelegba Bridge, warns against ‘one-way’ driving
The Federal Road Safety Corps has recommended the construction of a truck barrier on Ojuelegba Bridge in the Surulere area of Lagos to prevent articulated vehicles especially trucks carrying containers from using the bridge and falling on other vehicles.
The FRSC Corps Marshal, Dauda Biu, made the recommendation while reacting to an accident around the bridge on Sunday in which a container-carrying truck fell on a passenger bus, killing nine people including two children.
A statement by the Corps Public Education Officer of the FRSC, Bisi Kazeem reported the corps marshal as expressing deep concerns over the fatal accident, which he noted was becoming a regular occurrence.
Biu also spoke on another accident recorded on Sunday that claimed 11 lives on Soka Bridge on the Lagos-Benin Highway and warned against excessive speeding and driving against the traffic popularly called one-way.
The statement said, “Whilst his concerns stem from the reoccurring container crashes on Ojuelegba bridge that has claimed several lives, the Corps Marshal recommends the construction of barricades against articulated vehicles (tankers, trucks, trailers and other heavy duty vehicles) on Ojuelegba Bridge as a permanent solution to the reoccurring crashes.”
The corps marshal who frowned on the incident explained the importance of barricading the bridge against articulated vehicles citing some of the dangers that come with their continuous use of the bridge as he called for efforts to be made towards expanding the connecting roads under the bridge to accommodate all articulated vehicles.
He revealed that FRSC rescue teams in collaboration with other Emergency Management Agencies had cleared obstructions from the crash scenes for ease of movement while the driver of the Mack truck had been arrested and handed over to the police for further investigation and possible prosecution.
The corps marshal also reiterated the need for the enactment of laws that will bring justice to victims of these crashes and where such laws already exist, efforts should be made to activate them so that justice will be served accordingly to both the drivers and the victims.
It stated that a preliminary investigation conducted into the fatal crashes revealed that the Ojuelegba crash involved a Mack Truck with a 40ft container with the registration number KJA 380 KD, who apart from engaging in excessive speed, also indulged in an act of wrongful overtaking and a Suzuki mini bus registered as KTU 921 YD; while the Soka avoidable menace involved a truck driven against the traffic and a Macopolo bus.
The statement said, “The container mounted on the Mack truck at Ojuelegba, according to our operatives, fell off the truck and landed on the Suzuki mini bus filled up with passengers which obviously led to the death of 9 of the passengers.
“As at the time of this statement, 11 victims were burnt beyond recognition at the Soka Bridge while the Ojuelegba crash involved 13 people comprising of nine males and four females. Out of the 13 people, nine were killed comprising five male adults, one male child, one female child and two female adults.
“Out of the four victims who survived the Ojuelegba crash, two were rescued without injuries while the remaining two sustained various degrees of injuries.
He urged the public to always use the FRSC toll free line 122 and the National Traffic Radio 107.1 FM which are always available for all road users to report emergencies at any given time.
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