January 31, 2023

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Hushpuppi: Notorious Nigerian fraudster jailed for 11 years in US

In the US, a prominent Instagram influencer from Nigeria who took part in a large-scale fraud network received a sentence of more than 11 years in jail.

Hushpuppi, whose real name is Ramon Abbas, was also ordered to pay two victims a total of $1,732,841 (£1,516,182) in compensation.

The influencer became well known by bragging to his 2.8 million followers about his lavish lifestyle.

But when he was jailed in Dubai two years ago, everything fell apart.

According to Don Always, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, Abbas had become “one of the most prolific money launderers in the world” behind the glamour of his account.

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,” according to Mr. Always in a court document on Monday.

When Abbas pleaded guilty to money laundering last year, he acknowledged trying to steal more than $1.1 million from someone who wanted to open a new children’s school in Qatar.

He also recognised “a number of other cyber and corporate email breach operations that caused more than $24 million in losses,” according to the US federal government.

One of these, from 2019, involved rerouting $13 million ($13 million) that had been stolen from the Maltese Bank of Valletta by a group of North Korean hackers, which led to chaos on the European island of Malta when payment systems failed.

According to the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times, two imams reportedly pleaded for mercy in a letter to the judge in Los Angeles, pointing out that he routinely assisted widows and orphans and donated to things like feeding programs.

Abbas apologised for his wrongdoing in a handwritten letter to Judge Otis D. Wright and pledged to pay back his victims with his own money. He added that he had only made $30,000 from the offence for which he was being charged.

Nevertheless, a 135-month sentence in a federal prison was imposed on him.