Nigerian Instagram Influencer turned fraudster Ramon “Hushpuppi” Abbas has pleaded guilty to money laundering and other fraudulent schemes in a California Court. The 37-year-old popularly known for his lavish lifestyle of fast cars, jets, and designer clothes was involved in business email scams that cost his victims nearly $24 million.
The United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California confirmed the plea which could land Hushpuppi up to 20 years in prison, according to court documents. He is also expected to “pay full restitution to the victim(s)” the documents further state.
The assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, Kristi K. Johnson, described Abbas as one of the most high-profile money launderers in the world.
“His celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organizations and led to several spin-off schemes in the U.S. and abroad. Today’s announcement deals a crucial blow to this international network and hopefully serves as a warning to potential victims targeted with this type of theft.”
On June 10, 2020, social media was thrown into a frenzy with the news of the arrest of Hushpuppi. Online reports and videos captured the tycoon surrounded by heavy police in Dubai as he was matched into a vehicle for alleged fraud.
According to BBC, police in Emirates are said to have recovered $40 million (Ksh4 billion) in cash, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8 million (Ksh680 million), 21 computers, 47 smartphones and the addresses of nearly two million alleged victims.
Details of the arrest of the two alongside their gang indicate that they had been trailed by FBI agents since 2019 as they have been operating in different ways to execute cyber heists.
The gang reportedly used different software to alter their voices and fake signatures to hack into the bank details of victims and in turn, get away with huge sums of money. This was declared a menace with the government orchestrating ways to bring the suspects to book.
Read also: Eight Online Scams You Should Be Wary Of
Abbas and his co-conspirators were charged in the California court for attempting to “steal more than $1.1 million from a businessperson attempting to finance the construction of a school for children in Qatar–and the subsequent laundering of illicit proceeds through bank accounts around the world.”
Court documents show that Abbas pleaded guilty to the charges on April 20.
“The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari school by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off,” Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement:
“Mr. Abbas, who played a significant role in the scheme, funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists.”
According to an online publication, Hushpuppi and his gang also conspired to launder millions of dollars that were proceeds of other fraudulent schemes including a scheme to steal £100 million (Ksh10 billion) from an unnamed English Premier League football club.