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Ogun Government Official Pleads Guilty To Fraud In US Court

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Ogun Government Official Pleads Guilty To Fraud In US Court

An official of the Ogun State government until his arrest, Abidemi Rufai, has pleaded guilty in United States District Court in Tacoma to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Rufai, 45, admitted using stolen identities to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, U.S. Attorney, Nick Brown, said.

Rufai has been in custody since his arrest at New York’s JFK airport in May 2021. At the time of his arrest, Rufai was the Special Assistant to the Governor of Nigeria’s Ogun State.

READ ALSO: Governor Abiodun Suspends Aide Arrested In US Over Alleged $350,000 Fraud

According to the plea agreement, since 2017, Abidemi Rufai unlawfully obtained the personal identifying information for more than 20,000 Americans to submit more than $2 million in claims for federally funded benefits under a variety of relief programmes. The various agencies involved paid out more than $600,000.

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.

He also submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states.

Mr Rufai 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.

Between 2017 and 2020, Rufai attempted to obtain more than $1.7 million in IRS tax refunds by submitting 675 false claims. The IRS paid out $90,877 on these claims.

Rufai’s efforts to enrich himself with false disaster claims did not start with COVID-19. In September and October 2017, he submitted 49 disaster relief claims connected to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. He filed $24,500 in false claims and was paid on 13 claims totaling $6,500.

Rufai has agreed to pay full restitution to the defrauded agencies.

Wire fraud in relation to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Aggravated identity theft is punishable two years in prison to follow any prison term imposed on another charge.

Prosecutors have agreed to recommend no more than 71 months in prison. The recommendation is not binding on U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle, who will determine the appropriate sentence on August 15, 2022, after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

READ ALSO: Governor Abiodun’s Aide Arrested In US Over Alleged $350,000 Fraud

Rufai’s case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and the United States Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General.

The Washington Employment Security Department is cooperating in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson and Cindy Chang of the Western District of Washington.

On May 17, 2021, the U.S. Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud such as the one perpetrated by Abidemi Rufai.

The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programmes to prevent fraud by augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice

 

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BREAKING: Tinubu, PDP’s G5 Members Meet In Aso Rock

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President Bola Tinubu and the members of G5 or the Integrity Group of the Peoples’ Democratic Party )PDP) met at the Aso Villa, Abuja.

The G5 group, led by one serving governor and four former governors caused a major division within the Peoples Democratic Party after demanding the then National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu step down for a southern replacement as a precondition to support the presidential ambition of the party’s flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar in the February 25 poll.

Both Atiku and Ayu called the then governors’ bluff and did not succumb to their demands in the just-concluded elections.

Makinde and Wike reportedly played supportive roles to Tinubu ensure his victory at the February 25, presidential election.

Those at the meeting are Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo state as well as former Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu).

The current governor of Enugu State, Peter Mbah was also present.

Tinubu had met with Wike and Makinde some times since his election and inauguration.

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Govt Declares June 12 Public Holiday To Mark Democracy Day

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NBC Fines Arise TV N2m Over Fake Report On Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu

The Federal Government on Thursday declared Monday, June 12, 2023 a public holiday in commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day.

Disclosing this in a statement, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Interior, Dr Oluwatoyin Akinlade congratulated all Nigerians on the occasion.

She said: “Nigeria’s democratic journey has, like in many other climes, encountered both stormy and smooth sails, but the ship of State, its institutions and most importantly, the Nigerian people have remained steadfast on the tenets of democratic governance.

“On this memorable occasion therefore, Nigerians and friends of Nigeria are invited to appreciate the progress that has been made, celebrate the milestones covered and look forward to a better future for the country’s democracy.

“The Permanent Secretary wishes all Nigerians a Happy Democracy Day celebration”.

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Senate Rejects Controversial Water Bill

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enate President Tells APC Delegates To Choose Presidential Candidate Without Baggage
Senate President Ahmed Lawan

The controversial National Water Resources Bill, 2023 has been rejected by the Senate.

The bill was lined up for concurrence in the order paper but was rejected by the majority of the senators.

This brings an end to the controversy by governors and the federal lawmakers particularly those from the Southern part of the country.

When the bill was read for concurrence on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, Senator Gabriel Suswan from Benue North West, raised Order 85 of the Senate Rules which provides that Senators must have full details of the provisions of any bill coming for concurrence.

Senator James Manager from Delta South, who seconded Senator Suswan’s point of order, also stressed the need to have details of the bill since provision was made for only the title of bill.

The Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who later ruled in favour of the rule cited, adjourned the plenary for the day.

It would be recalled that the House of Representatives had passed the bill in 2020 amidst suspicion by members and the general public that the proposal had sinister motives.

Before the passage, the chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli, said the former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), as well as commissioners for justice and attorneys-general of the 36 states of the federation had been consulted and the opinions received would be attached to the bill and distributed to all members.

To buttress the suspicion of some members of the public, a member of the House from Benue State, Mark Gbillah, raised the alarm when the bill was to be taken for the first reading.

Only the short title of a bill is written on the Order Paper for first reading, while a long title, which has more details, is written when listed for second reading.

Gbillah said, “I am aware that the matter listed for first reading, the National Water Resources Bill, generated a lot of controversy within this honourable House and even across the country, and some of us wonder why this issue is still being represented on the floor of the House, because some of us are not comfortably in support of this bill in the first instance Mr Speaker. I thought I should bring that to the notice of the Right Honourable Speaker.”

The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who admitted that Gbillah “raised a very cogent point,” noted that Nigeria is a very diverse country and everybody’s sensitivity must be taken into consideration.

Gbillah, however, disagreed with the Speaker, stating that the lawmakers were duly elected and given the mandate to represent the interests of their constituents.

He said, “Whatever the governors might have agreed upon may not be acceptable to us. It is we that have those powers as enshrined in the Constitution to enact legislation that will be binding on this country.”

There were fireworks in the House on September 29, 2020, with some members, mostly from the southern part of the country, raising various legal and procedural issues against the bill.”

The then President, Muhammadu Buhari, had in 2017 presented the controversial bill to both chambers of the National Assembly, which seeks to transfer the control of water resources from the states to the federal government.

The legislation was titled, “A Bill for An Act to Establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, Provide for the Equitable and Sustainable Redevelopment, Management, Use and Conservation of Nigeria’s Surface Water and Groundwater Resources and for Related Matters.”

The summary of the bill reads, “This Act repeals the Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004; River Basin Development Act Cap R9 LFN 2004; Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N110A, LFN,2004; National Water Resources Institute Act Cap N83 LFN 2004; and establishes the National Council on Water Resources, Nigeria Water Resources Regulatory Commission, River Basin Development Authorities, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, and the National Water Resources Institute.”

The proposed bodies, if established, will “provide for the regulation, equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface water and groundwater resources.”

Though the 8th House managed to pass the bill, the controversy had frustrated passage of the bill by the Senate, as the Red Chamber on May 24, 2018, considered the executive bill for second reading, during which senators were divided across regional lines.

While Northern Senators had supported the proposal and its objectives, their Southern counterparts had opposed it.

Those opposed to the bill had pointed out that the bill, if passed into law, would further centralise power and resources of the country. This, they pointed out, would counter the move towards devolution of power domiciled with the federal government.

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