A Nigerian Instagram celebrity who flaunted his immense wealth to 2.4 million followers has appeared in a U.S. court on charges of money laundering and cyber crimes, prosecutors have announced in a statement.
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, known otherwise by his social media username ‘Hushpuppi,’ was arrested in Dubai last month and handed over to US custody this week after a months-long FBI investigation into a vast continent-spanning scam which reportedly targeted an English Premier League football club, along with banks and law firms, according to a criminal complaint filed last month in a US federal court.
It is believed that Mr Abbas stood at the helm of this transnational crime syndicate.
In multiple Instagram posts over recent years, the 37-year-old Nigerian national has consistently bragged about his international jet-set lifestyle, including images of his collection of expensive sports cars, jewellery and private jets. He can also be seen globe-trotting with celebrities, including a Nigerian singer, a well-known Turkish chef and a Manchester City football player.
However, investigators have suggested that it was partly Mr Abbas’ inability to stop boasting on Instagram that allowed them to follow his cyber movements.
In court documents, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) alleges that, “Abbas maintains social media accounts that frequently showed him in designer clothes, wearing expensive watches, and posing in or with luxury cars and charter jets.”
In particular, Mr Abbas - along with his co-conspirators who were also arrested - is known to specialise in business email compromise schemes (BEC), that hack corporate email addresses or aim to dupe members of staff into sending a wire transfer of company money.
Federal prosecutors in L.A. charge Dubai resident who flaunted his extravagant lifestyle on social media in a wide-ranging conspiracy to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams.https://t.co/dBhZI4s3pC pic.twitter.com/aroKOIPrdR— US Attorney L.A. (@USAO_LosAngeles) July 3, 2020
“The FBI’s investigation has revealed that Abbas finances this opulent lifestyle through crime, and that he is one of the leaders of a transnational network that facilitates computer intrusions, fraudulent schemes (including BEC schemes), and money laundering, targeting victims around the world in schemes designed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars… In 2019 alone, the FBI recorded $1.7 billion in losses by companies and individuals victimized through business email compromise scams, the type of scheme Mr. Abbas is charged with conducting from abroad,” the DoJ statement says.
Additionally, he is accused of attempting to launder millions of dollars in stolen cash.
“Abbas and others further conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including one scheme to steal £100m (approximately $124m) from an English Premier League soccer club,” the DoJ says.
According to the prosecutor’s statement, a client of an unnamed New York law firm lost around $923,000 last year after Abbas and others tricked a member of staff into wiring them money that was meant to finance the client’s real estate. In another scam, $14.7 million was stolen from a financial institution last year.
Mr Abbas is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles in the coming weeks to face trial, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
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