Unemployment Fraud

TACOMA, Wash - A man from Nigeria who was suspected of being involved in Washington state's $650 million unemployment fraud was arrested Saturday at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport as first reported by the Seattle Times. 

According to the report by the Times, Abidemi Rufai, of Lekki, Nigeria, was charged Saturday in federal court with using 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.

Rufai was arrested by FBI agents and is scheduled for a detention trial Tuesday. The case will be prosecuted in federal court in Tacoma.

Back in May of last year state officials said the personal information of tens of thousands of people in the state was used to fraudulently pay hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.

Much of it apparently went to a West African fraud ring using identities stolen in prior data breaches, such as the massive 2017 Equifax breach.

Washington is one of several states where attacks have been detected, including New Mexico, Michigan and Montana, according to California cyber security firm Agari, which has monitored the Nigerian fraud group, dubbed Scattered Canary.