Hushpuppi, Mr Woodberry and Bidemi Rufai transferred into the same prison

Date:

Three notorious Nigerian internet fraudsters, known for their significant social media and political influence, are presently serving their sentences at the same prison facility in the United States. Bidemi Rufai is scheduled for release on Valentine’s Day in 2025.

Ray ‘Hushpuppi’ Abbas, 41, Jacob Olalekan Ponle, also known as Mr. Woodberry, 33, and Bidemi Rufai, 46, are all being held at Fort Dix, a low-security prison near Joint Base McGuire in Burlington County, New Jersey.

They are expected to serve the remainder of their sentences there. Mr. Rufai, a close ally of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, was arrested in May 2021 at John F. Kennedy Airport while attempting to flee the U.S. to Nigeria on a Royal Dutch ticket.

FBI Special Agent Heidi Hawkins coordinated the arrest of Bidemi Rufai after uncovering a scheme in which Rufai stole the identities of thousands of U.S. citizens to claim COVID-19 benefits amounting to nearly half a million dollars. He used the stolen funds to purchase luxury cars and watches to support his extravagant lifestyle.

Rufai pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The U.S. government ordered him to pay $604,000 in restitution to the scam’s victims, primarily government institutions such as the Washington Employment Security Department ($350,763), Arkansas Division of Workforce Services ($10,166), Maine Department of Labor ($8,205), and Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency ($44,216), among others.

Mr. Rufai, inmate number 83912-053, was transferred from a facility outside Seattle, Washington, to Fort Dix in Burlington County ahead of his scheduled release on Valentine’s Day in 2025.

His accomplice, Mr. Woodberry, was also moved from the notorious Danbury Correctional Center in Connecticut to Fort Dix. Mr. Woodberry, 33, with inmate number 54314-424, is set for release on October 17, 2027, after which he will 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 sentenced Mr. Woodberry to eight years and three months in prison on one count of fraud in July 2023. His lighter sentence was the result of a plea bargain that dismissed seven other counts.

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 recommended that he forfeit his diamond-studded necklace, rings, and all gold jewelry.

The last member of the triad, the notorious Hushpuppi, known for flaunting designer wear, luxury cars, and extravagant parties on Instagram, has also been transferred to the Fort Dix detention facility.

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

Arrested in June 2020 in Dubai and extradited to the U.S. to face 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 is unclear whether 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 respond to requests for comments.

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