Abidemi Rufai, the suspended Senior Special Assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, allegedly defrauded Washington State Employment Security Department using 10 different means, a court document obtained by The PUNCH has revealed.
In the document, Rufai was said to have submitted over 100 claims to the Washington Employment Department, and had also submitted additional claims to the state workforce agencies for other states.
The Nigerian reportedly carried out the scheme by using the stolen identities of American workers.
“In so doing, Rufai caused and attempted to cause, the Employment Security Department to pay out federal and other unemployment benefits in excess of $350,000, and fraudulently caused other states to pay out additional benefit payments,” part of the document reads.
Manner and means
The court document revealed that 10 conducts were part of the conspiracy used by the suspended governor’s aide to engaged in the alleged wired fraud.
The manners and ways were listed as:
– RUFAI and his co-conspirators unlawfully obtained, possessed and shared with one another the PII of residents of Washington and other states, including their names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers.
– RUFAI and his co-conspirators created email accounts, including an account administered by Google Inc., (“Google”) with the address “firstname.lastname@example.org,” for the purpose of participating in fraudulent transactions while obscuring their identities.
– RUFAI and his co-conspirators, using foreign and interstate wire transmissions, accessed ESD’s SAW portal, as well as similar portals of other SWAs, including SWAs for the states of Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Each time RUFAI or a co-conspirator accessed the Washington SAW portal, he or she caused wire transmissions terminating and originating at the State Data Center in Olympia, Washington.
To establish SAW accounts, RUFAI and his co-conspirators provided the email@example.com email address to ESD as the designated email address to receive activation emails. Each time RUFAI or a co-conspirator input this email address into the SAW system, an activation email was sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org email account.
– Each of these emails was sent via an interstate wire transmission originating from the State Data Center in Olympia, Washington and passing through a Google data center outside the state of Washington.
– To prevent ESD and other SWAs from recognizing that the same email account was being used to file multiple claims, RUFAI and his co-conspirators used dozens of variants of the email address by placing periods at different locations within the email address for each claim. For example, RUFAI opened SAW accounts and submitted claims using the variants “email@example.com,” “firstname.lastname@example.org,”
– In routing emails to a Gmail account, Google disregards periods within the email address (e.g., “email@example.com” is routed to the same account as “johndoe@gmaiLcom”). As a result, Google delivered all of these emails (and any similar “dot variants” of the same address) to the firstname.lastname@example.org account. By using these email address variants, RUFAI and his co-conspirators were able to file multiple claims using the same email account, without BSD and other SWAs detecting that they were doing so.
– When completing the applications, RUFAI and his co-conspirators directed that some of the benefits be paid to online payment accounts, including accounts administered by the Green Dot Corporation. In other cases, RUFAI and his co- conspirators directed that the fraudulent benefit payments be made to bank accounts controlled by persons known as “money mules,” who withdrew and transferred the funds according to instructions given by RUFAI and his co-conspirators.
– RUFAI and his co-conspirators directed the money mules to send a portion of the proceeds to the residence
of RUFAI’ s brother in Jamaica, New York, where RUFAI was then staying.
– The wire fraud that was the object of this conspiracy occurred in relation to, and involved, benefit payments authorized, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, and paid in connection with the presidentially declared major disaster and emergency.
The scheme Rufai allegedly manipulated
The suspended Ogun governor’s aide allegedly attempted to defraud the US agency using a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted on March 27, 2020 in the United States
The CARES Act authorised approximately $2 trillion in aid to American workers, families, and businesses to mitigate the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act funded and authorised each state to administer new unemployment benefits. These benefits include Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provided a benefit of $600 per week per unemployed worker in addition to existing benefits.
Others are Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which extends benefits to self-employed persons, independent contractors, and others; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance, which extends benefits for an additional 13 weeks after regular unemployment benefits are exhausted.
CARES Act unemployment benefits are funded by the United States government through the Department of Labor and administered at the state level by state agencies known as state workforce agencies (SWAs). The Washington Employment Security Department is the SWA for the State of Washington.
CARES Act unemployment benefits are authorized, transferred, disbursed and paid in connection with a national emergency declared by Presidential Proclamation 9994 (effective as of March 1, 2020) and a Presidential declaration of a major disaster for the State of Washington concerning the COVID-19 pandemic that was issued on March 22, 2020.
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