Federal prosecutors in the western Washington district have appealed the release of Abidemi Rufai, a senior special assistant to Gov Dapo Abiodun accused of fraud by the Washington Department of Labor Security for unemployment fraud last year – and now a western district judge has until June 4 to review the appeal to decide.
Last week, another judge in eastern New York decided to release Abidemi Rufai on $ 300,000 bail pending an appeal. Rufai will be released to a family friend’s house on Long Island. Rufai will remain behind bars until a decision is made on the appeal.
Federal attorneys in the Western District of Washington have appealed the release of the Nigerian national accused of defrauding Washington’s Employment Security Department in last year’s unemployment fraud attack — and now a Western District judge has until June 4 to make a decision on that appeal.
Last week, a different judge in the Eastern District of New York had decided to release Abidemi Rufai on $300,000 bail, pending the decision on the appeal. Rufai was to be released to the home of a family friend on Long Island. Until the appeal is decided, Rufai remains behind bars.
“The Western District of Washington believes that he needs to come out here and face these charges in the district where they’re filed,” said Emily Langley, US Attorney’s communications director for the Western District of Washington.
As well as stealing more than $ 350,000 of job security, Rufai has been accused of making fraudulent disaster relief claims from FEMA, the IRS, and the small business administration since 2017. Rufai is believed by investigators to be the first key actor to be arrested in an unemployment fraud attack in Washington, DC in where criminals are believed to have stolen at least $ 650 million.
Rufai’s travel documents have been confiscated and his movements, if released on bail, will be monitored with an anklet. He will also be barred from leaving the Eastern District of New York – or, ultimately, the Western District of Washington.
However, federal prosecutors said in their complaint that Rufai’s bail was risky because Rufai’s surety, Nekpen Soyemi’s husband was convicted in 2014 of buying stolen personal information from dozens of people and using it to commit fraud.
“We do not think it’s appropriate that someone who’s been accused of wire fraud would be released into a home whereof the couple, the two people living there — the male part of the couple has already been convicted federally of wire fraud,” Langlie said.
He explained that it was customary to release someone on bail to former criminals.
“Generally, when someone is going to be released on bond, one of the conditions you often see is that they are not to associate with people who have criminal histories,” Langlie said.
The appeal also found that Rufai’s surety had been identified by his bank as “as a suspect in an email impersonation and money laundering scheme.”
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As well as concerns about guardianship, the complaint states that Rufai poses an extreme aviation risk for a number of reasons.
On the one hand, Rufay is already trying to return to Nigeria and would probably have if he hadn’t been arrested. He was arrested on May 14 at JFK International Airport in New York while trying to board a flight back to Nigeria via Amsterdam.
The appeal found that Rufay had no clear links to the West Washington District and only one family member resided in the United States. Instead, Rufay’s wife and children live in Nigeria and he holds a government position as a senior special assistant to the governor of the Nigerian state. Although he was removed from this position after his arrest, he was not released.
Rufai is also known to have faked identity documents in the past, and prosecutors fear he could easily get hold of a fake passport. They discovered that at the time of his arrest, he had premium airline tickets and several other luxury items on hand, indicating that he had the financial means to escape.
“Rufai is experienced in obtaining and trafficking in stolen identities and identification documents. He has the skills and resources to produce fraudulent documents that would allow him to leave the country,” wrote the lawyer, adding, “Location monitoring will not guarantee Rufai’s appearance. A defendant determined to flee can simply remove his location monitoring device and disappear.”
Prosecutors believe Rufai will be gone permanently if he returns to Nigeria, finding it quite difficult to extradite ordinary Nigerians, let alone top government officials.
“Extradition will be difficult – also because he is an officer there,” Langley told Radio KIRO last week.
If the prosecution did, Rufai would be taken to Seattle – although he could be released on bail again in Washington.
“Extradition would be difficult — in part because he is a government official there,” Langlie told KIRO Radio last week.
She did not have a timeline on when that could happen, noting that, for security reasons, they don’t tend to find out ahead of time when a person is being transported by the Marshals.
Regardless of how the decision of the appeal judge is, this decision can be challenged by either party before it is considered final.
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