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BREAKING: Popular Real Estate Merchant and Politician, Abidemi Rufai ‘Ruffy’ Arrested In US Over $350,000 Wire Fraud

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A Lagos based real estate merchant and former House of Representatives aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Abidemi Rufai, popularly known as ‘Ruffy’ has been arrested in the United State for his scheme to steal over $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department

Rufai was arrested Friday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport by federal agents as he allegedly attempted to leave the country.

According to the United States Department of Justice, Rufai, appeared in federal court Saturday on charges that he used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steal more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“This is the first, but will not be the last, significant arrest in our ongoing investigation of ESD fraud,” said Tessa Gorman, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a statement Monday.

The federal complaint also provides a detailed glimpse into the scale of the pandemic-related fraud as well as the methods — some of them surprisingly unsophisticated — fraudsters used to pilfer unemployment systems in Washington and other states.

Rufai, 42, was arrested by FBI agents Friday evening and is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday. The case will be prosecuted in federal court in Tacoma.

“I want to thank our partners in law enforcement for their continued efforts to hold criminals accountable for their attacks on our unemployment insurance system,” said ESD Acting Commissioner Cami Feek in a statement.

A report by Seattle Times says Rufai was represented by an assistant federal public defender at Saturday’s hearing.

Rufai’s arrest comes almost a year to the day after ESD officials announced they were temporarily suspending unemployment benefits payments after discovering that criminals had used stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information to file bogus claims for federal and state unemployment benefits.

Within days, ESD officials disclosed that “hundreds of millions of dollars” had likely been stolen in a fraud scheme that law enforcement officials and cybercrime experts said was partly based in Nigeria, involving a criminal ring nicknamed “Scattered Canary.”

Washington was among the first states to be hit by a wave of fraud that would eventually strike dozens of states and siphon off billions of dollars in federal aid meant for pandemic victims.

Rufai, 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. Investigators also found a massive cache of tax returns and other personal data and evidence that Rufai was allegedly involved in numerous other fraud schemes.

Federal officials acknowledged that Rufai’s presence in the United States probably was unusual in the unemployment fraud scheme. Many of the fraudulent claims that hit the ESD were likely filed from outside the United States, according to the complaint.

The federal complaint also offers a detailed explanation of how Rufai — and presumably others — allegedly bypassed security systems at ESD using a simple feature of Google’s free Gmail service.

Federal investigators initially identified Rufai through a single Gmail account he used to file 102 claims for pandemic-related unemployment benefits from ESD, as well as claims at programs in other states, according to the complaint.

Thanks to a feature of Gmail, account holders can create dozens of additional email addresses simply by adding one or more periods to the original address.

Because the Gmail system doesn’t recognize periods, any emails sent to those so-called dot variant addresses are delivered to the inbox of the original Gmail address.

In Rufai’s case, his original email address — [email protected] — was expanded to include dot variants such as [email protected] and [email protected], according to the federal complaint.

Rufai used the dot variant addresses to create multiple accounts in the Washington state system that authenticates users of government services, the complaint alleges. Rufai then filed for unemployment benefits with ESD, the complaint said, using stolen personal identities of real Washington residents.

Because emails sent by the agency to the dot variants all went to Rufai’s Gmail account, Rufai could easily monitor all ESD correspondence regarding each claim, according to the complaint.

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 ESD, including emails the agency sends to new claimants allowing them to activate their accounts with the state authentication system.

Investigators also found around 100 emails from unemployment systems in other states, according to the complaint. The account also contained emails from Green Dot, an online payment system that fraud experts and ESD officials have said was widely used for stolen unemployment benefits.

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 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 or have other issues. Although Rufai’s Gmail account used his alias name, 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, 2020, and August 2, 2020, $288,825 was deposited into a Citibank checking account in Rufai’s name, according to the complaint. The funds were deposited from multiple sources, including Green Dot, an online payment service that federal officials said.

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 were able to get a warrant for his arrest.

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.”

 

Credit: Seattle Times/Justice.Gov

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‘Two COVID Tests In 72 Hours’, New Protocol For Nigeria As UAE Lifts Flight Ban

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The Dubai Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management has released a new protocol directing travellers from Nigeria to undergo COVID-19 tests upon arrival at the airport in the United Arab Emirates.

Flights between both countries have been suspended since March over issues relating to the COVID-19 protocol.

In a press release on Saturday, the middle east country said the new measure is part of its efforts to ease inbound travel restrictions.

Passengers are also expected to have taken a COVID test 48 hours before departure, and have negative results to show for it.

According to the Dubai media office, the protocol will become effective from June 23, 2021.

“Passengers must have received a negative test result for a PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure; UAE citizens exempted,” the new guideline reads.

“Passengers should present a negative PCR test certificate with a 0R Code from labs approved by the Nigerian Government.

“All passengers must undergo a PCR test on arrival at Dubai Airport.

“Transit passengers should comply with entry protocols of final destinations.”

Headed by @sheikhmansoor, the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in #Dubai announces updates to Dubai’s travel protocols for inbound passengers from South Africa, Nigeria and India, effective from Wednesday 23 June 2021.https://t.co/Zfma4YWugQ pic.twitter.com/NkhIzaQwzI

— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) June 19, 2021

The federal government had been in talks with the authorities of the UAE over the travel protocol put in place against Nigeria in the wake of the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In February, Emirates Airline had directed that travellers taking off from Nigeria must conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure, but the federal government had banned outbound Emirates flights for violating the directive of the presidential task force (PTF) on rapid antigen tests.

The ban was lifted after the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests. It was later reintroduced on March 15, with the federal government explaining that the airline had continued to conduct rapid antigen tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria.

Thereafter, in March, the UAE embassy in Abuja announced a new COVID-19 travel protocol for Nigeria as part of measures to curtail the spread of the virus in the country.

Passengers who had been in or transited through South Africa or Nigeria in the last 14 days before travelling to Dubai were barred from entering the middle east country.

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Arewa vs IPOB: Northern Youths Reports Irokotv App On Play Store After Google Removed Adamu Garba’s Crowwe App

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After several Northern youths targeted Jason Njoku’s Irokotv app on Playstore in retribution for the removal of Adamu Garba’s Crowwe app, a Nigerian man contacted the company’s owner, Jason Njoku.

This happened just days after Google banned Adamu Garba’s Crowwe App due to a copyright infringement by the social media company.

Remember that Adamu Garba, the CEO of Crowwe App, backed the suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria following the federation’s ban on the social media platform.

He also made fun of Twitter, advising Nigerians to use his own social media app instead. However, numerous Nigerians complained and gave his app negative reviews, prompting its removal.

In revenge for Crowwe’s expulsion, Northern youths have mobilized to begin reporting Igbo-owned mobile apps. Jason Njoku’s iRokoTV and Softtalk messaging are among the apps listed.

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Obasanjo Contributed To Nigeria’s Crisis, He Should Mind His Utterances —– Femi Adesina

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Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, says former President Olusegun Obasanjo contributed to the current chaos in the country, adding that the ex-military general should mind his utterances.

He stated this on Friday in a piece titled, ‘Nigeria’s Unity And All The Iberiberism’.

Adesina wrote, “The saber-rattling about Nigeria’s unity and the possibility of disintegration has got to the point of Iberiberism (an Igbo word which could mean stupidity). Some people have no other business than doomsday predictions of a crumbled, collapsed Nigeria, as if they actually fast and pray for that eventuality.

“When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was President between 1999 and 2007, they predicted that he was going to be the last President of a united Nigeria. It didn’t happen. When Umaru Yar’Adua came, they said he was too sick to hold Nigeria together. The country stood.

“Under Goodluck Jonathan, they said the man was too weak, and different components of the country would soon say, ‘to your tents oh Israel.’ Nigeria survived. And for six years under Muhammadu Buhari, they have not changed their songs. The Somaliasation of Nigeria was on the way. The Fulanisation of the country would be the final death knell. But Nigeria lives. It trudges on from day to day, month to month, and will surely survive.”

Adesina said though some people dwell on negativity, “some fathers of the land will not fold their hands and see Nigeria go down”.

“Fortunately, we have one of them as President now. The young Muhammadu Buhari spent 30 months in the frontlines as a young army officer, fighting the war of unity. And he has said it: we will not be around and watch Nigeria go down. Never. We will rather speak to insurrectionists in the language they understand.

“And what of Olusegun Obasanjo, a civil war hero. Despite all that he has contributed to the current upheavals by his actions and inactions, words, and bile, he says it is idiotic to wish Nigeria disintegration now. Good. But let us put our money where our mouth is. Let Baba mind his thoughts, and his language,” the presidential spokesman added.

“Nigeria will survive. The polity will endure. And the component parts will live together in amity and brotherhood. Any other option is Iberiberism,” he concluded.

Obasanjo, a military head of state from February 1976 to September 1979, was Nigeria’s democratically elected president between May 1999 and May 2007.

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