A federal magistrate in New York ruled Wednesday that a Nigerian citizen charged in last year’s $650 million unemployment fraud in Washington state cannot be released before his trial.
Abidemi Rufai, 42, arrested Friday in New York as he prepared to fly to Nigeria, had asked a federal court to release him to the custody of his brother, who is an attorney in New York, according to federal prosecutors and Abidemi Rufai’s private attorney.
Abidemi Rufai had also agreed to electronic home monitoring and certain travel restrictions, said federal prosecutors and Rufai’s attorney, Michael Barrows of Garden City, New York.
But Rufai’s 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.
As a result, Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes ordered Abidemi Rufai detained and taken to the Western District of Washington, federal prosecutors and Barrows said.
“We’re pleased that the defendant is being detained and will be transported to the Western District of Washington for future court proceedings,” said a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors had argued that Rufai presented “an extreme risk of flight” and had requested that he be held in custody until his trial in federal court in Tacoma.
Rufai is charged with stealing more than $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.
Rufai “denies any involvement in these transactions,” Barrows said on Tuesday.
Although Abidemi 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.
“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.”