Abidemi Rufai, a suspended aide to Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, was sentenced to five years in prison by a US District Court in Western Tacoma, Washington, for fraud.
According to a statement from the US Department of Justice, Mr Rufai was sentenced on Monday for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
“The motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and a callousness towards those who have suffered,” the statement quoted the trial judge, Benjamin Settle, as saying.
Rufai was arrested in New York in May 2021 as he was about to board a flight. He has been detained since then.
He illegally obtained the personal identifying information of over 20,000 Americans in order to submit over $2 million in claims for federally funded benefits under a variety of relief programmes. More than $600,000 was paid out by the various agencies involved.
The largest amount of fraud was committed against the Washington State Employment Security Department, which paid out $350,763 in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims to accounts controlled by Rufai. Rufai also submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states.
The 45-year-old also defrauded the Small Business Administration (SBA) by attempting to obtain Economic Injury Disaster loans (EIDL) tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April 8, 2020, and June 26, 2020, he submitted 19 fraudulent EIDL applications. SBA paid out $10,000 based on the applications.
Rufai pleaded guilty to the charges in May 2022. Based on his plea agreement with the prosecution, he 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.”