Two men from Toronto are facing prosecution abroad after they allegedly stole more than $2 million from the U.S. government.

Sakiru Olanrewaju Ambali and Fatiu Ismaila Lawal, both 45 years old, were arrested in February of last year – Ambali by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in Frankfurt, Germany, while en route home to Toronto, and Lawal, by the Toronto Police Service.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the two men used thousands of stolen identities of American workers to submit over 1,700 claims for pandemic unemployment benefits. Police said the accused filed “some 900 claims” to more than 25 different U.S. states using 13 Google accounts, four domains, and an estimated 800 different email addresses.

In total, the claims sought approximately US$25 million, with the accused allegedly obtaining US$2.4 million.

Some of the funds were then sent to cash cards or “money mules” who transferred the funds according to instruction, while some were deposited into bank accounts allegedly created using the stolen identities, police said.

Authorities confirmed that, while the accused were residing in Toronto at the time of their arrest, both are citizens of Nigeria.

On Dec. 18, Ambali, extradited to the U.S. upon his arrest, pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. In turn, he admitted to personally submitting at least 620 claims for unemployment benefits that paid more than US$1 million between March 2020 and December 2021.

As part of his plea agreement, he has agreed to pay back US$1,035,107.

Ambali is scheduled for sentencing on March 14 by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan. Prosecutors will recommend five years in prison, according to the attorney's office.

Arrested in Toronto, Lawal is currently pending extradition. He last appeared at the Superior Court of Justice on Wednesday.

More than US$200B in COVID-19 aid may have been stolen: watchdog

According to data provided in June by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), more than US$200 billion may have been stolen from two of the country’s COVID-19 relief initiatives.

According to the SBA’s inspector general’s report, at least 17 percent of all funds disbursed by the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheque Protection programs could have gone to fraudulent actors.

The report estimated more than US$136 billion had been defrauded from the EIDL program, representing 33 percent of the total money spent on that program. The Paycheck Protection Program fraud estimate is US$64 billion, it said.

With files from The Associated Press.