The trial of Abidemi Rufai, the suspended aide of the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, has been adjourned to May 31.
This is even as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s unveiled over 100,000 pages of evidence alleging Rufai’s involvement in tax and disaster frauds.
The adjournment was contained in court documents from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.
“The trial date presently scheduled for February 1, 2022, is continued to May 31, 2022, at 9:00a.m. The pretrial conference is rescheduled for May 23, 2022, at 2:00 p.m., and the pretrial motions cutoff date is April 8, 2022,” the document said.
It added, “The period of delay resulting from this continuance from the current trial date of February 1, 2022, to the new trial date of May 31, 2022, is hereby excluded for speedy trial purposes under 18 USC § 3161(h)(8)(A) and (B) for purposes of computing the time limitations imposed by the Speedy Trial Act, 18 USC § 3161-3174.”
Rufai was made aware of the motion but had not objected to it, and will be filing the waiver for a speedy trial. This is despite the initial pretrial conference set for January 24 and the trial date for February 1, 2022.
The court documents described the investigation in Rufai’s case as “voluminous and complex.”
“The government had produced over 100,000 pages of discovery material. The discovery includes electronic documents in a variety of formats. Further, in addition to the transactions described in the indictment, which relate to alleged fraud involving unemployment benefits, the government has also produced material relating to allegedly fraudulent claims for tax refunds and disaster relief,” the court document, obtained by Peoples’ Gazette, added.
Rufai, who served as the Deputy Director-General of the Dapo Abiodun Campaign Organisation in the last governorship election in the state, was arrested in May 2021 at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, US, on a criminal complaint of wire fraud for his scheme to steal over $350,000 (about N158 million) in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department, the acting US Attorney, Tessa M. Gorman, announced.
He made his initial appearance in court on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in New York.
Meanwhile, the court documents listed that on May 26, Rufai was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft.
His bail terms were reportedly compromised after the FBI uncovered irregularities in the surety he presented before the court.
One Nekpen Soyemi, a nurse identified to be Rufai’s friend, was once suspected of a business email compromise scam by the Bank of America. As such, prosecutors advised the judge to rescind Rufai’s bail and instead remand him in custody indefinitely, as he posed a flight risk.
Wanted by security personnel since 2017, Rufai was found using the alias Sandy Tang linked to possible unemployment programmes fraud in Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Federal investigators identified Rufai through a single Gmail account which he used to file 102 claims for unemployment benefits, using stolen personal identities of real Washington residents.
The investigation revealed over 1,000 emails from the ESD and about 100 emails from other states’ unemployment systems, and from Green Dot, an online payment system reportedly used for stolen unemployment benefits.
Emails containing bank and credit card numbers, birth dates and other personal identifying information, images of driver’s licences, and “a very large volume” of tax returns of U.S. taxpayers were also found in Rufai’s possession.
The recovery phone number listed to Rufai’s Google account was a Nigerian number matching his 2019 U.S. visa application, and pictures matching Mr Rufai’s physical appearance in his 2019 visa application were seen in the linked Google Drive account.
He faces up to 30 years in jail for wire fraud “in connection to a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”