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U.S. Govt Transfers Woodberry, Hushpuppi, Bidemi Rufai To Same Prison Facility

U.S. govt transfers Mr Woodberry, Hushpuppi, Bidemi Rufai to same prison facility ahead of Valentine’s Day release

The triad of notorious Nigerian Internet fraudsters has been languishing in U.S. prisons for a couple of years.

Three infamous Nigerian Internet fraudsters with strong social media and political influence are currently serving out their sentences at the same prison facility in the United States, with Bidemi Rufai set to be released on Valentine’s Day in 2025, Peoples Gazette can report.

Ray ‘Hushpuppi’ Abbas, 41, Jacob Olalekan Ponle, or Mr Woodberry, 33, and Mr Rufai, 46, are all being held at Fort Dix low-security prison near Joint Base McGuire Burlington County, New Jersey, where they will presumably serve out the rest of their jail terms.

Mr Rufai, a close ally of Governor Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), was arrested in May 2021 at the John F. Kennedy airport, where he had booked a Royal Dutch ticket to flee the U.S. to Nigeria.

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FBI special agent Heidi Hawkins coordinated the arrest after uncovering a scheme showing how Mr Rufai stole the identities of thousands of U.S. citizens to claim their COVID-19 benefits running into half a million dollars. He lavished the stolen funds on luxury cars and watches to shore up his extravagant lifestyle.

He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. The U.S. government ordered him to pay $604,000 as restitution to victims of the scam, majorly government institutions like the Washington Employment Security Department ($350,763), Arkansas Division of Workforce Services ($10,166), Maine Department of Labour ($8,205), Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency ($44,216), among others.

Mr Rufai, with prison number 83912-053, was moved from a facility outside Seattle, Washington, to Fort Dix in Burlington County ahead of his release on Valentines’ Day in 2025.

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His compatriot and comrade-in-crime, Mr Woodberry, had also been moved from the notorious Danbury correctional centre in Connecticut to Fort Dix. Mr Woodberry, 33, with prison registration number 54314-424, is set to be released on October 17, 2027, and would, after that, be deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Judge Robert Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago convicted and sentenced Mr Woodberry to eight years and three months in jail over one count of fraud in July 2023. He was handed a lighter sentence that shaved off seven other counts in a plea bargain.

Mr Woodberry, a socialite with over a million followers on his now-deactivated Instagram page, was arrested on June 10 2020, alongside fellow fraudster Hushpuppi, at a Dubai apartment. The court ordered him to return $8 million to seven victims, and prosecutors recommend he forfeit his diamond-studded necklace and rings and all gold jewellery.

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The last crook of the triad, the sensational Hushpuppi and serial Internet fraudster who once enjoyed uploading pictures and videos of his designer wearing posh rides and luxury parties on Instagram, has also been shipped to Fort Dix detention facility.

Hushpuppi, 41, with prison number 54313-424, was moved from a facility outside Los Angeles to Fort Dix, where he is expected to serve the rest of his sentence until August 6, 2029.

Arrested in June 2020 in Dubai and extradited to the U.S. to defend himself against Internet scam charges, Hushpuppi was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2022 by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II.

It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. prison officials were aware that the Nigerian trio they transferred to the same facility were allies from Nigeria and Dubai.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons did not return requests for comments.