US: Nigerian social media influencer and scammer ‘Hushpuppi’ gets 11 years in jail

LOS ANGELES: A Nigerian social media influencer who went by the name of Ray Hushpuppi and flaunted a lavish lifestyle fueled by his efforts to launder millions of stolen dollars was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison on Monday in Los Angeles sentenced.

Ramon Abbas, 40, has been ordered by a federal judge to pay two fraud victims $1.7 million in damages, according to a statement from the US Department of Justice.

Abbas had more than 2 million Instagram followers under the name “Ray Hushpuppi” before he was arrested in June 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Abbas is “one of the most prolific money launderers in the world,” Don Alway, deputy director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said in the statement.

Prosecutors said Abbas and a Canadian laundered money from various online crimes, including bank cyber robberies and business email compromise, or BEC, a prolific crime in which crooks hack into email accounts pretending to be someone Being who they are not and tricking victims into transferring money is not part of it.

In 2019, he helped launder about $14.7 million stolen by North Korean hackers from a bank in Malta, and funneled the money through banks in Romania and Bulgaria, prosecutors said.

He also helped launder millions of pounds stolen from a British company and a professional football club in the United Kingdom, got a New York-based law firm to wire almost $923,000 to a criminal account and gave in a settlement agreement admitted he had helped con someone in Qatar who applied for a $15 million loan to build a school, federal prosecutors said.

At Monday’s sentencing hearing, Abbas was sentenced to 135 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $922,857 in damages to the law firm and $809,983 in damages to the victim in Qatar.

“By his own admission, the defendant conspired to launder over $300 million during a period of just 18 months,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo, though they said much of the intended loss “ultimately did not materialize.”

His social media posts revealed that he lived a life of luxury, complete with private jets, ultra-expensive cars, and high-end clothing and watches.

“I hope that one day I will inspire more young people to join me on this journey,” read an Instagram post from Abbas, who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to participate in money laundering in April 2021.

Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, of Mississauga in Ontario, Canada, was charged separately. He pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy to launder money in 2020, prosecutors said. He was sentenced to nearly 12 years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $30 million in damages.

Image “Family Man”.

“He was an equal opportunity criminal,” prosecutors said in a court filing, citing his “long history of fraud and money laundering.” Abbas “is by all accounts an ambitious man, but his ambition has long been crime and its rewards,” the government said. His “conduct was reprehensible and deserves a severe punishment”.

US District Judge Otis Wright said he felt prosecutors and defense attorneys were talking about two different people in their accounts of Abbas.

Abbas’ lawyers painted the picture of a family man and successful businessman who strayed into a world of crime and did little more than provide scammers with access to bank accounts.

Abbas, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and handcuffed, told the judge he was in deep financial trouble in 2019 when he accepted offers from some employees to help them launder money.

“I was desperate, Your Honor,” he said. “I was very desperate.”

He apologized to his victims and promised to pay them back in full by selling his two Rolls Royces, a Ferrari and a Range Rover.