Instagram influencer ‘Hushpuppi’ pleads guilty to million-dollar fraud in US
A Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Ramon Abbas, known as “Hushpuppi” has admitted his involvement in a conspiracy to defraud a Qatari businessman of more than $1m, the U.S. Justice Department has said.
Abbas, 37, also admitted to laundering money “through bank accounts around the world,” including “several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses,” the statement released Wednesday added.
He pleaded guilty to the charges on April 20, according to court documents which were only unsealed Wednesday.
Abbas was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in June last year after local police raided his Dubai apartment.
Nearly $41 million in cash, 13 luxury cars valued at around $6.8 million, and phone and computer evidence containing more than 100,000 fraud files and the addresses of nearly two million possible victims were found during the raid, according to Dubai Police.
He was arrested alongside another Nigerian man Olalekan Jacob Ponle aka “Woodberry” in a joint operation with United States agents known as “Foxhunt 2,” Dubai police said.
Abbas was handed over to FBI agents, and was later transferred to Los Angeles to face trial on charges of money laundering through cybercrime schemes.
According to court documents, Abbas along with other defendants, faked the financing of a school by posing as bank officials and creating a fake website to convince a Qatari businessman to part with his money. They also “bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison.
They succeeded in defrauding the businessman of $1.1m and part of the stolen money was used to “purchase a Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which was hand delivered to Abbas in Dubai and subsequently appeared in Hushpuppi’s social media posts,” prosecutors said.
Abbas also used part of the proceeds to allegedly acquire “St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship, as well as a passport for Abbas obtained by creating a false marriage certificate and then bribing a government official in St. Kitts,” according to official documents.
Abbas was a lavish spender who claimed to be a real estate developer and was famous for tossing wads of cash and flaunting his Rolls Royces, luxury watches, and designer clothing on Instagram where he has amassed more than two million followers.
US prosecutors said the popular Instagrammer — described as a high-profile money launderer — “funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists who use increasingly sophisticated means.”
Abbas faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced.