Ray Hushpuppi: Nigerian Instagram star sentenced to 11 years in jail for cash laundering



CNN
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A Nigerian social media influencer who flaunted a lavish way of life of personal jets and luxurious automobiles has been sentenced to 11 years in jail over prices associated to a multimillion greenback rip-off that focused corporations in america and abroad.

Ramon Abbas, recognized to his tens of millions of Instagram followers as Ray Hushpuppi, pleaded responsible in April final yr to conspiracy to have interaction in cash laundering. Along with the jail sentence handed down on Monday, United States District Decide Otis D. Wright II ordered him to pay $1.7 million in restitution to 2 fraud victims.

It’s a spectacular downfall for Abbas, 40, whose June 2020 arrest at his gilded perch in Dubai made headlines worldwide. Earlier than his sentencing, Abbas was held in federal detention in Los Angeles, his as soon as flamboyant social media account gone quiet — regardless of gaining 500,000 new followers since his arrest.

In a handwritten letter to the choose in September – the one direct phrase from him since his arrest – Abbas detailed his two years in detention.

The three page-long letter addressed the charges against Abbas, and his remorse therefor

“Since I’ve been incarcerated, I’ve had sufficient time to mirror on the previous and I remorse letting greed damage the nice identify of my household, my blessing and my identify,” he wrote.

On social media, the place Abbas had posted movies of himself tossing wads of money like confetti, he referred to himself as an actual property developer. However federal investigators stated he financed his extravagant way of life via on-line hacking schemes that netted greater than $24 million.

His targets included a US legislation agency, a international financial institution and an unnamed British skilled soccer membership, amongst others, based on a federal sentencing memorandum from the US Lawyer’s Workplace within the Central District of California.

“Cash laundering and enterprise e mail compromise scams are a large worldwide crime drawback, and we are going to proceed to work with our legislation enforcement and worldwide companions to determine and prosecute these concerned, wherever they might be,” stated Martin Estrada, a United States lawyer.

Abbas’ September letter to Decide Wright detailed how his co-conspirators reached out to him to pinpoint companies to rip-off or request banking info to switch fraudulently obtained funds.

His alleged cyber crimes concerned jaw-dropping quantities of cash.

Federal paperwork detailed how Abbas and a co-conspirator “fraudulently induced” a New York legislation agency to wire almost $923,000 meant for a shopper’s actual property refinancing to a checking account they managed. A paralegal on the agency acquired fraudulent wire directions after sending an e mail to what seemed to be a official financial institution e mail deal with however was later recognized as a “spoofed” deal with.

In such a enterprise e mail compromise rip-off, criminals mimic an e mail message or web site to make their communication seem prefer it’s from a recognized supply making a request akin to a cash switch.

Ramon Abbas told his millions of Instagram followers that he worked in real estate.

Abbas additionally confessed to a conspiracy to defraud a Qatari businessman of greater than $1 million.

“The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari faculty by taking part in the roles of financial institution officers and making a bogus web site in a scheme that additionally bribed a international official to maintain the flowery pretense going after the sufferer was tipped off,” appearing United States Lawyer Tracy L. Wilkison stated in a press release final yr.

Since his arrest, Abbas stated, he’s had time to mirror on his errors.

“Your honor, I make no excuse for my actions and I take full accountability for what I’ve performed,” he wrote in his letter. “If I might flip again the hand of time, I’d make a completely totally different choice and be extra cautious within the selections and mates I make.”

One among his co-conspirators pleaded responsible in November 2020 to 1 depend of conspiracy to have interaction in cash laundering. He’s additionally serving 11 years in federal jail and has to pay greater than $30 million in restitution.

Federal investigators have described Abbas as a prolific cash launderer who leveraged his social media platform to achieve notoriety and brag about his wealth.

A Nigerian nationwide based mostly in Dubai, Abbas made no secret of his opulent way of life. Earlier than his arrest, he known as himself the “Billionaire Gucci Grasp” on Snapchat.

“Began out my day having sushi down at Nobu in Monte Carlo, Monaco, then determined to e book a helicopter to have … facials on the Christian Dior spa in Paris then ended my day having champagne in Gucci,” he wrote in a photograph caption on Instagram in 2020.

Abbas flaunted his wealth conspicuously on Instagram.

Images of him posing with a number of fashions of Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz and Rolls-Royce automobiles included the hashtag #AllMine. Others confirmed him rubbing elbows with worldwide sports activities stars and different celebrities.

In a 2020 affidavit, federal officers detailed how his social media accounts supplied particulars wanted to substantiate his id.

The registration and account safety info related together with his Instagram profile, for instance, included an e mail deal with and telephone quantity. Federal officers accessed that info and had been in a position to hyperlink the e-mail and telephone quantity to monetary transactions and transfers with folks the FBI believed had been his co-conspirators.

Even Abbas’ Instagram celebration images helped the investigation.

One such publish displayed a birthday cake topped with a Fendi emblem and a miniature picture of Abbas surrounded by tiny procuring luggage. Investigators used that publish to confirm the date of beginning he had used on a earlier US visa software.

In June 2020, United Arab Emirates investigators swooped into Abbas’ condominium on the unique Palazzo Versace resort in Dubai, arrested him and handed him over to FBI brokers.

Investigators on the scene seized almost $41 million, 13 luxurious automobiles price $6.8 million and telephone and pc proof together with the e-mail addresses of almost 2 million potential victims, Dubai Police stated in a press release.

“Thanks, Lord, for the numerous blessings in my life. Proceed to disgrace these ready for me to be shamed,” Abbas captioned an Instagram image of a Rolls-Royce simply two weeks earlier than his dramatic arrest.

The account has since been taken down.

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