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A United States federal magistrate court in New York ruled Wednesday that Ogun State Governor’s Special Assistant, Abidemi Rufai, charged in last year’s $650 million unemployment fraud in Washington state cannot be released before his trial.

Gov Abiodun's aide, Abidemi Rufai
Abidemi Rufai

The special aide to the Ogun State Governor, arrested Friday in New York as he attempted to leave the US, had asked a federal court to release him to the custody of his senior brother, Alaba A. Rufai, who is an attorney in Jamaica, New York.

Federal prosecutors and Rufai’s attorney, Michael Barrows of Garden City, New York, said Rufai had also agreed to electronic home monitoring and certain travel restrictions.

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But his brother, listed in court records as Alaba A. Rufai, told the court Wednesday morning that he could not afford the $300,000 “surety” bond that he would have been required to post to ensure that Abidemi Rufai appeared for his trial, said federal prosecutors and Barrows.

According to federal prosecutors and Rufai’s attorney, Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes consequently ordered Abidemi Rufai detained and taken to the Western District of Washington.

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A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle said they are pleased with the decision of Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes. “We’re pleased that the defendant is being detained and will be transported to the Western District of Washington for future court proceedings,” said the spokesperson.

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On Tuesday, federal prosecutors had argued in court that the suspect, Rufai presented “an extreme risk of flight” and had requested that he be held in custody until his trial in federal court in Tacoma.

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Rufai, a native of Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria is accused of stealing more than N175 million ($350,000) last year by filing fraudulent unemployment claims with the Washington state Employment Security Department (ESD) using the identities of more than 100 Washingtonians. It was the first “significant” arrest in that fraud, federal officials said.

He “denies any involvement in these transactions,” his attorney, Barrows said on Tuesday.

Although the special aide to governor Abiodun, Rufai planned to seek “alternative surety” and to ask the court to reopen the detention case, he was unable to do so by the end of the day Wednesday, Barrows said.

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“The family is still working on trying to get another friend or relative to serve as the surety,” Barrows said in an email Wednesday evening. “If they can, I will file for a rehearing.”

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