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.
The statement, released Wednesday, added that Abbas, 37, admitted to laundering money through bank accounts all over the globe, including several other cyber- and business email compromise schemes that collectively resulted in more than $24million in losses.
Court documents show that he pleaded guilty on April 20 to the charges, which were not sealed until Wednesday.
Abbas was detained in June 2013 by the United Arab Emirates police after they raided his Dubai apartment.
Dubai Police reported that nearly $41 million was found in cash and 13 luxury cars worth around $6.8million. They also discovered phone and computer evidence with more than 100,000 fraud files, as well as the addresses of almost two million victims.
According to Dubai police, he was taken into custody along with Olalekan Jacob Ponle (aka “Woodberry”) in a joint operation that involved United States agents. This was called “Foxhunt 2”.
Abbas was given to FBI agents. He was then transferred to Los Angeles for trial on money laundering charges arising from cybercrime schemes.
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Court documents show that Abbas and other defendants faked financing for a school by pretending to be bank officials and setting up a fake website in order to persuade a Qatari businessman with his money. Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said that they also “bribed” a foreign official to continue the elaborate pretense after the victim was tipped.
They defrauded the businessman of $1.1 million. Part of the stolen money was used for “purchase of a Richard Mille RM11-04 watch, which was hand-delivered in Dubai to Abbas and subsequently appeared on Hushpuppi’s social media posts,” prosecutors stated.
Abbas also used part the proceeds to purchase “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 claimed that the Instagrammer, who is described as a prominent money-launderer, “financed his lavish lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated from con artists who use increasingly sophisticated methods.”