Nigerian influencer fraudster jailed for 11 years in the US and ordered to pay $1.7 mn

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A Nigerian Instagram influencer going by the name Hushpuppi has been jailed in the US for more than 11 years for being a part of an international fraud syndicate. He has also been ordered to pay $1.7 million as compensation to two of his fraud victims. 

Hushpuppi, whose real name is Ramon Abbas was notorious for flaunting his wealth and lavish lifestyle on social media platforms to sell the mirage of being successful and launder his money derived from online bank cyber-heists, business email compromise (BEC) schemes and other online frauds.

When Abbas’ Instagram account was suspended, he had over 2.8 million followers. 

“Ramon Abbas targeted both American and international victims and became one of the most prolific money launderers in the world,” the FBI said in a court document. 

“Abbas leveraged his social media platforms…to gain notoriety and to brag about the immense wealth he acquired by conducting business email compromise scams, online bank heists and other cyber-enabled fraud that financially ruined scores of victims and provided assistance to the North Korean regime,” it added. 

The investigation agency was referring to an incident from 2019 when Abbas attempted to launder $15 million, stolen by a gang of North Korean hackers from the Maltese Bank of Valletta. Such was Abbas’ attempt that the entire payment system of the island was shut down.  

Apart from the school scam that formed the bedrock of his sentencing, Abbas was also involved in a dating scam where he swindled money from online lovers, after establishing a relationship via a false identity. 

Reportedly, during the court hearing, Abbas also admitted to stealing more than $1.1 million from an individual who wanted to fund a Qatari school. The prosecutors said Abbas created a fake bank website and used identity theft by impersonating bank officials. 

In a handwritten letter to the judge, Abbas apologised for his actions and said, “If I could turn back the hands of time I would make an entirely different decision and be more careful in the choices and friends I make,” 

While Abbas pleaded guilty, his lawyer continued to maintain that he was not the leader of the ring. 

“Mr. Abbas was not the leader, organizer, or supervisor in the commission of this offense. Mr. Abbas has done everything in his power to right his wrongful acts.”

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