A United States district court has sentenced Abidemi Rufai, a suspended aide of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, to five years’ imprisonment for fraud.
The District Court in Western Tacoma in Washington jailed Mr Rufai on Monday for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
With the stolen identities, he attempted to steal nearly $2.4 million from the United States government, including approximately $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
Mr Rufai, 45, who pleaded guilty to the charges in May, was said to have succeeded in defrauding 12 US agencies of $600,000 paid out into bank accounts controlled by him.
A statement by the US Department of Justice announced the sentencing of Mr Rufai on Monday.
“The motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and a callousness towards those who have suffered,” the statement quoted the trial judge, Benjamin H. Settle, as saying.
Based on his plea agreement with the prosecution, Mr Rufai agreed to pay full restitution of $604,260 to the defrauded agencies.
But the Department of Justice’s statement said he “has not fully cooperated with efforts to identify and forfeit assets that could be used for restitution.”
In asking for a nearly six-year prison sentence Assistant United States Attorney Cindy Chang noted that Rufai’s scheme damaged real people who needed help.
Seattle Field Office Special Agent in Charge, Bret Kressin, quoted Mr Rufai as saying, ‘The choices we make are ultimately our responsibility”.
The Special Agent said, “and he is correct.” “This sentence is a result of the culmination of choices he made funding his luxurious lifestyle.”
He added, “His fraud schemes began with filing fraudulent tax returns from stolen identities to pilfering economic aid designed to help disadvantaged workers and families suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The prosecution said since 2017, Mr Rufai stole the personal identifying information of more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2 million in claims for federally funded disaster relief benefits and fraudulent tax returns.
The various agencies ended up paying out more than $600,000 into bank accounts controlled by Mr Rufai as of the time of his arrest last year, the prosecution stated.