Nigerian influencer nabbed for money laundering and cybercrime

A 38-year-old Nigerian businessman and Instagram influencer, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, was taken into custody for money laundering and conspiracy charges, according to the Department of Justice.

Once known for rocking fancy watches, driving luxury cars, and wearing designer clothes, Abbas, better known as Hushpuppi on social media, was extradited to the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates. Abbas made his initial court appearance in a Chicago federal court on Friday.

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Abbas portrayed himself as a successful real estate developer while his alleged scams amassed over $431 million, The New York Post reported. One of the alleged victims lost about $1 million dollars in 2019, according to a federal affidavit.

The FBI and Interpol raided his Dubai apartment as he slept and seized more than $37 million, in cash.

“The suspects targeted victims overseas by creating fake websites for well-known companies and banks in a bid to steal victims’ credit card information and then launder the stolen money,” Dubai police Brig. Jamal al-Jalaf said.

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In an Operation dubbed “Fox Hunt 2”, Dubai Police have arrested Hushpuppi, Olalekan Jacob Ponle aka “Woodberry”, along with ten members of an African gang, specialised in money laundry, and online fraud. HE Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, said the operation is another achievement added to the proud record of Dubai police in ensuring the emirate’s security, safety, as well as preserving people’s money and property. Similar to operation ‘Fox Hunt 1’ that took down an African gang of nine online scammers last February, ‘Fox Hunt 2’ is another painful hit to cybercriminals who try to mess with the world’s security and safety,” he said. #HushPuppi

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Prosecutors believe that Hushpuppi is one of many leaders of a global network that uses business email compromise (BEC) to amass millions. Hackers infiltrate and redirect the communications of legitimate businesses in order to make wire transfers and launder money.

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“This case targets a key player in a large, transnational conspiracy who was living an opulent lifestyle in another country while allegedly providing safe havens for stolen money around the world. As this case demonstrates, my office will continue to hold such criminals accountable, no matter where they live,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.

If convicted, Abbas faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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