Convicted Bronx Fraudster Who Fled To Ghana Prior To Serving Sentence Is Extradited To The United States

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Jacqueline Maguire, the Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Thomas Fattorusso, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced that TOUREY AHMED RUFAI, a/k/a “Joe Thompson,” a/k/a “Joe Terry,” a/k/a “Rufai A Tourey,” a/k/a “Ahmed Rufai Tourey,” who was previously sentenced to four years in prison and fled to the Republic of Ghana (“Ghana”) prior to surrendering to serve his sentence, was arrested in Ghana on April 14, 2021, and extradited to the United States earlier today to serve his sentence.  RUFAI’s sentence of four years was imposed by U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote on April 12, 2019, in connection with RUFAI’s participation in a fraud scheme based in Ghana involving the theft of over $10 million through business email compromises and romance scams that targeted elderly victims from at least 2014 through 2018.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “When a defendant released on bail like Tourey Ahmed Rufai cuts his ankle bracelet and flees the country, it is an affront to the victims of his crimes and the Court.  Thanks to the extraordinary work of the FBI, IRS-CI, and our law enforcement partners both in the United States and in Ghana, this fugitive was apprehended in Ghana and has been returned to the United States to serve his four-year sentence.”  

FBI Acting Assistant Director Jacqueline Maguire said:  “Justice will now rightfully be delivered – both to Mr. Rufai as he serves his prison sentence, and to the innocent victims from whom he stole millions of dollars. When Mr. Rufai decided to cut off his ankle bracelet and flee the United States, he did not understand the FBI’s ability to find fugitives in foreign nations through our extraordinary international law enforcement partnerships. We thank everyone involved, and especially our IRS-CI colleagues and our Ghanaian partners, in ensuring Mr. Rufai will be held accountable for his crimes.”

IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso said: “This extradition reflects that despite his best efforts, Tourey Ahmed Rufai could not outrun justice, even after two years on the run, and by fleeing to another continent.  Tourey Ahmed Rufai perpetrated an elaborate scheme driven by insatiable greed and a blatant disregard for the tremendous damage inflicted on innocent victims.  He will now rightfully serve out the prison term as originally handed down.”

According to court filings in Manhattan Federal Court:

Between 2014 and 2018, RUFAI, a Ghanaian national who was residing in the Bronx, New York, was a member of a criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in Ghana that was involved in defrauding more than 100 American businesses and individuals of more than $10 million through business email compromises and romance scams.  RUFAI and his co-conspirators received or otherwise directed the receipt of millions of dollars in fraud proceeds from victims of the Enterprise in bank accounts that they controlled in the Bronx, New York.  Some of these bank accounts were opened using fake names, stolen identities, or shell companies in order to avoid detection and hide the true identities of the members of the Enterprise controlling those accounts.  Once the defendants received the fraud proceeds in bank accounts under their control, the defendants withdrew, transported, and laundered those fraud proceeds to other members of the Enterprise, including those located in Ghana.     

RUFAI was released on bail shortly after his arrest on January 9, 2018, on conditions including a $150,000 bond co-signed by three individuals, surrender of all travel documents, and home detention with electronic monitoring through an ankle bracelet.  At his sentencing on April 12, 2019, RUFAI was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to self-surrender to prison on May 24, 2019.  Then, on May 12, 2019, 12 days prior to his surrender date, U.S. Pretrial Services learned that the defendant’s ankle bracelet had been removed and that the defendant had fled.  A bench warrant was thereafter issued for the defendant’s arrest.

On April 14, 2021, after the defendant’s bond was forfeited, the defendant was arrested in Ghana pending his extradition to the United States to serve his sentence.  

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RUFAI, 33, of the Bronx, New York, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on  January 9, 2019.  In addition to a prison term of four years, he was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $109,868.61 and pay restitution of $320,449.97 to victims. 

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and IRS-CI in locating RUFAI in Ghana so that he could be arrested by Ghanaian law enforcement.  Ms. Strauss also thanked the FBI Legal Attaché in Accra, Ghana, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division, the U.S. Marshals Service, Ghana’s Economic and Organised Crime Office, Interpol – Ghana Police Service’s Criminal Investigative Division, Ghana National Security, and the Ministry of Justice & Attorney General’s Office of Ghana, for their assistance in the extradition of RUFAI to the United States.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Sagar K. Ravi is in charge of the prosecution.

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