FBI reveals how it placed Dapo Abiodun’s special assistant Abidemi Rufai under fraud watch since 2017

Abidemi Rufai, who is a longtime associate of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, has been placed under fraud watch since 2017 for filing 652 fraudulent tax returns in the U.S., by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr Rufai, a top special assistant on special duties, was suspended by Mr Abiodun following his accusation by the FBI for his role in a $650 million employment fraud.

Mr Rufai was apprehended in New York while he attempted to abscond the country.Abidemi Rufai charged with his “involement in a massive fraud on the United States” has been “doing this for years” and “this is what he does,” a U.S. official told the court recently.

The court heard how Mr Rufai began his fraud plot with “hurricane relief in 2017, filing false FEMA claims.” He was accused of filing 652 fraudulent tax returns, circulating the internet looking for U.S. programmes.

“Mr Rufai is a fraudster. And he does this while he is hiding thousand miles away. This is someone that the IRS has been trying to identify since 2017,” said the U.S. official. “We have now identified him, we have an overwhelming case against him, as the defence has 652, and we have him in custody.”

We have an opportunity to hold Rufai accountable for that … because he has every capacity to flee.” added the U.S. agent. “When he does flee, and he is  going to go back, and do exactly same thing he did again.

Mr Rufai appeared before a federal court on charges alleging he used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to file fraudulent claim to receive over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

A detention hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.

Mr Rufai has lived in Lekki, Lagos, for years as Mr Abiodun’s neighbour and business partner. He appointed him as a special duties aide when he became governor, a position Nigerian political elite usually reserve for trusted associates.

Mr Abiodun himself was exposed as a certificate forger after falsely claiming to have attended colleges and filed fake documents of his several schools. He was never prosecuted for the offence before emerging governor and currently enjoys immunity from criminal charges as a serving governor.

It was not immediately clear whether or not the governor was involved in the fraud or knew about his assistant exploits. The U.S. complaint against Mr Rufai gave insight into how the pandemic-related fraud was carried out, noting that most of the fraudulent claims that hit the ESD were likely filed outside the U.S.

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