Last June, the FBI got a warrant to hunt through the Google accounts of Abedemi Rufai, a Nigerian state government official.
What they found, they said in a sworn affidavit, was all the ingredients for a “massive” cyber fraud on U.S. government benefits: Stolen bank, credit card and tax information on Americans. Money transfers. And emails showing dozens of false unemployment claims in seven states that paid out $350,000.
Rufai was arrested in May at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport as he prepared to fly first class back to Nigeria, according to court records. He is being held without bail in Washington state, where he has pleaded not guilty to five counts of wire fraud.
Rufai’s case offers a small window into what law enforcement officials and private experts are calling the biggest fraud ever perpetrated against the United States, a significant portion of it carried out by foreigners.
Russian mobsters, Chinese hackers and Nigerian scammers have used stolen identities to plunder tens of billions of dollars in COVID benefits, spiriting the money overseas in a massive transfer of wealth from American taxpayers, officials and experts say. And they say it’s still happening.
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