Nigerian Social Media Guru “Hushpuppi” Jailed in the U.S

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By Andrew Fungai

Hushpuppi aka Ramon Abbas, a Nigerian internet personality, will spend 11 years in prison after an American court found him guilty of fraud and money laundering.

The 40-year-old social media influencer rose to prominence by flaunting a luxury lifestyle fueled by money laundering; flaunting a luxurious lifestyle financed by money laundering millions of dollars and was given a sentence of more than 11 years in federal prison on Monday in Los Angeles.

A federal judge also mandated that Ramon Abbas, 40, pay $1.7 million in restitution to two fraud victims, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

Nigerian Fraud Schemes

Abbas had developed into “one of the most prolific money launderers in the world” behind the glamour of his account, claimed Don Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

In a court document on Monday, Mr. Alway stated that 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 destroyed scores of victims and assisted the North Korean regime.”

Abbas admitted trying to steal more than $1.1 million from someone who intended to establish a new children’s school in Qatar when he entered a plea of guilty to money laundering last year. According to court records in California, he was a significant player in the conspiracy, “playing the roles of bank executives and developing a phony website.”

The US federal department claimed he also acknowledged “several other cyber and business email breach operations that collectively cost more than $24 million in losses.”

Among them was a plan from 2019 that caused turmoil on the European island of Malta when payment systems collapsed as he attempted to reroute $13 million ($13 million) that had been stolen from the Maltese Bank of Valletta by a group of North Korean hackers.

Abbas once claimed to be a real estate developer on Instagram and to have a category of videos called “Flexing” (social media slang for flaunting).

He used his true identity and contact information to extend his lease at the upscale Palazzo Versace apartments in Dubai for another year in 2020.

Those who knew Abbas, a Lagos native before changing his name to Hushpuppi, claim this is not his first trick. He allegedly began his fraudulent life as a “Yahoo boy,” a term used in Nigeria to describe guys who engage in romance fraud by stealing the identities of others online and defrauding their unwitting lovers of money.

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In a handwritten letter to Judge Otis D. Wright, Abbas expressed regret for his misdeeds and promised to compensate his victims with his own money. He further claimed that the crime he was being prosecuted for had only netted him $300,000.

He was nonetheless given a 135-month term in federal prison.

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