1 of Thousands of WA ESD Fraud Suspects Arrested on East Coast
The FBI and other officials say one person directly linked to the massive unemployment fraud in WA state in 2020 has been arrested.
The ESD (Employment Security Department) fraud, believed to be the biggest in state history, is still being unraveled.
During the early stages of the COVID pandemic, the ESD; under the watch of former director Suzy Levine, virtually did away with all security and safety protocols in an effort to speed up claims. This led to massive filing of fake claims, mostly by people related to a well-known Nigerian fraud group. Over $600 million was taken, but some financial and crime experts say the state's estimates are too low--it's closer to $800 Million or higher.
The man arrested is said to be 42-year-old Abidemi Rufai, who hails from Nigeria. He has been linked, say officials, to at least 100 uses of stolen identities to swindle $350,000 from the state.
Most of the money taken, regardless of the source, was laundered. Thieves deposit the funds in a bank account, then transfer it to another, and the series of transfers is done quickly enough so that authorities tracing it come to a temporary dead end.
The first account is closed after the transfer, then they have to chase the next one...where it went. It's a game of financial "whack a mole" and a lot of the money stolen in 2020 ended up overseas.
FBI officials say $250 million has been recovered. Rufai, say FBI officials, filed fraudulent claims in Washington, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, and several other states. Officials say he was nabbed last Friday at JFK Airport.
Authorities didn't say if he was coming or boarding a flight overseas. They said his arrest is the first of a number of expected apprehensions in the future.