‘$350,000 fraud’: U.S. court sets date for Ogun governor’s aide’s arraignment

A Lagos based real estate merchant and former House of Representatives aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Abidemi Rufai, popularly known as ‘Ruffy’ has been arrested in the United State for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Abidemi Rufai, a suspended aide of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, is to be arraigned on fraud charges before a United States Courthouse, in Tacoma, Washington, on June 8, 2021, newsmen report.

He will appear before Theresa Fricke, a U.S. magistrate.

This development comes after a federal grand jury ratified the charges involving conspiracy, wire fraud and “aggravated identity theft”. He allegedly used the identity theft as a scheme “to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.”

A grand jury in the U.S. is a group of citizens empowered by law to conduct legal proceedings, investigate potential criminal conduct, and determine whether criminal charges should be brought.

This newspaper reported that nine counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft were ratified by the grand jury against Mr Rufai.

Acting Attorney, Tessa Gorman, in a letter seen by this newspaper on Monday, informed the suspect’s lawyers, Lance Hester and Michael Barrows, that Mr Rufai would be arraigned by 9:00 a.m. on June 8, 2021.

“It will be necessary that you and your client be present at the time and place indicated above, or via video or teleconference as directed by the Court. The indictment and other documents related to this case are available on the Court’s Electronic Docketing System,” the letter partly read.

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Mr Rufai was nabbed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while heading to Nigeria on May 14.

He was said to have used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steal more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

At the end of a detention hearing held on May 19, 2021, the Magistrate of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Ramon Reyes, agreed with the government that Mr Rufai posed “a serious flight risk”, but found that the risk could be addressed by conditions of release, including a $300,000 bond.

The magistrate went on to issue an order releasing Mr Rufai based on the bond in which Mr Rufai’s brother, who is licensed as an attorney in New York, was proposed as surety.

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Mr Rufai was not released because his brother did not sign the bail bond. The suspect was then remanded pending when he would provide an alternate surety.

Following the refusal of Mr Rufai’s brother to stand as a surety, the defendant’s lawyer, Michael Barrows, on May 21, presented Nekpen Soyemi, a registered nurse, whose family comes from Nigeria.

The U.S. later exposed her as a “suspect in an investigation into an email impersonation scheme.”

Her husband, Idris Soyemi, is also said to have been convicted for wire fraud in 2014.

The U.S. government on May 24 filed an emergency motion of stay release order before the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma.

Last Tuesday, the judge, Benjamin Settle, granted the government’s motion to stay the release of Mr Rufai as the U.S. uncovered more criminal activities involving the suspect.

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