How Dapo Abiodun’s aide Abidemi Rufai defrauded people in the united state
Abidemi Rufai a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor of Ogun State Dapo Abiodun on special duties have been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States for his role in $650 million (N312 billion) unemployment benefits fraud.
Rufai was nabbed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while attempting to escape to Nigeria.
According to Seattle Times, he appeared before a federal court on Saturday on charges alleging he used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to fraudulently receive over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
The 42 year old who used the alias Sandy Tang, is also suspected of defrauding unemployment programs in Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
He had used a single Gmail account to file102 claims for ESD benefits and also used it to file for benefits in 10 other states.
He had allegedly bypassed security systems at ESD using a simple feature of Gmail which allows users to create many additional email addresses simply by adding one or more periods to the original email address.
Because the Gmail system doesn’t recognize periods, any emails sent to those so-called dot variant addresses are all routed to the inbox of the original Gmail address.
In Rufai’s case, his original email address — Sandytangy58@gmail.com was expanded to include dot variants such as email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, according to the federal complaint.
Rufai used the dot variant addresses to create multiple accounts in the Washington state system that authenticates online users of government services, the complaint alleges. Rufai was then able to file for unemployment benefits with the ESD using stolen personal identities of real Washington residents, the complaint said.
In January, a federal judge issued a warrant to Google, which operates Gmail, allowing investigators to search Rufai’s Gmail account, according to the complaint. Investigators found more than 1,000 emails from the ESD, including emails the agency sent allowing new claimants to activate their accounts.
Investigators also found around 100 emails from other states’ unemployment systems and from Green Dot, an online payment system reportedly used for stolen unemployment benefits, the complaint said.
The email and banking tactics allegedly used by Rufai appear to link him with the Nigerian crime organization known as Scattered Canary, according to an expert who has studied the group.
“The details are a dead ringer to the early Scattered Canary activity we saw in the early part of the unemployment fraud epidemic,” said Crane Hassold, senior director of threat research for Agari, a cybersecurity firm.
Federal investigators analyzed ESD’s claims database to identify Gmail accounts that used dot variant addresses to file multiple claims, among them the Sandytangy58@gmail.com account, according to the complaint.
Rufai’s alleged schemes extended well beyond unemployment fraud, according to the complaint. Investigators found “substantial evidence” in Rufai’s Gmail account “that the user was actively engaged in stealing and retaining the personal identifying information of American citizens,” the complaint alleges.
Investigators found numerous emails with file attachments containing thousands of bank and credit card numbers, birth dates and other personal identifying information, images of driver’s licenses, and “a very large volume” of tax returns of U.S. taxpayers, the complaint alleges.
But Rufai appears to have let his own security lapse.
Google allows users to add a “recovery” cellphone number to their accounts in case they forget their password. Although Rufai’s Gmail account used his alias, Rufai’s recovery number was a Nigerian-based cellphone number that was also listed on Rufai’s 2019 U.S. visa application, according to the complaint.
A Google Drive account associated with the Gmail account included images of “an individual who matches the physical appearance of Rufai in his 2019 visa application photo” and other government documents, the complaint said.
It also contained purchase confirmation emails for products that listed Rufai’s brother’s address in Jamaica, New York, as the billing address, the complaint alleges.
Investigators determined that Rufai arrived in the United States on Feb. 19, 2020, and left on Aug. 9, 2020, “and was therefore apparently present in the United States during the period of the fraud,” according to the complaint.
Bank records show that between March 3 and Aug. 2, 2020, $288,825 was deposited from multiple sources, including Green Dot, into a Citibank checking account in Rufai’s name, according to the complaint and federal officials. Additional funds were transferred by the ESD to the account of a second individual, identified in the complaint as C.S., who reportedly filed unemployment claims using Rufai’s Gmail account. That individual also filed claims for unemployment benefits in other states.
According to federal officials, Rufai had reportedly returned to the United States at some point after his August departure. Federal officials became aware that Rufai intended to leave the United States via JFK Airport in New York on Friday evening and obtained an arrest warrant.
According to the U.S. attorney in Seattle, the case involves wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison in crimes involving benefits “paid in connection to a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Rufai is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday. The case will be prosecuted in federal court in Tacoma.