Ray Hushpuppi. The Instagram star was sentenced to 11 years in prison for money laundering
Nigerian social media influencer who flaunted lavish lifestyle of private jets and luxury cars sentenced up to 11 years of imprisonment for allegations of multimillion-dollar fraud that targeted companies in the United States and abroad.
Ramon Abbas, known to his millions of Instagram followers as Ray Hushpuppy, pleaded guilty last April conspiracy to engage in money laundering; In addition to Monday’s prison sentence, United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II ordered him to pay $1.7 million in restitution to two victims of the fraud.
It’s a spectacular fall for Abbas, 40, who was arrested in June 2020 outside his gilded Dubai perch. made world headlines. Ahead of the sentencing, Abbas was in federal custody in Los Angeles, with his once-flamboyant social media page silent despite the arrest of 500,000 new followers.
In a handwritten letter to a judge in September, his only direct words since his arrest, Abbas detailed his two years in custody.
“Since I have been incarcerated, I have had enough time to reflect on the past and I regret that I allowed greed to ruin the good name of my family, my blessing and my name,” he wrote.
On social media, where Abbas posted videos of himself throwing money like confetti, he described himself as a real estate developer. But federal investigators said he funded his extravagant lifestyle through online hacking schemes that netted him more than $24 million.
His targets included a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an unnamed British professional soccer club, among others, according to a federal sentencing memorandum from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
“Money laundering and business email compromise scams are a huge international crime problem, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement agencies and international partners to identify and prosecute those involved wherever they are,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada.
Abbas’ September letter to Judge Wright detailed how his co-conspirators approached him to flag businesses for fraud or requesting bank information to transfer fraudulently obtained funds.
His alleged cyber crimes involved unexpected sums of money.
Federal documents detailed how Abbas and a co-conspirator “fraudulently induced” a New York law firm to transfer nearly $923,000 to a bank account they controlled to refinance a client’s real estate. A company boss received fraudulent instructions after sending an email to what appeared to be a legitimate bank email address, but was later identified as a “spoofed” address.
In this type of business email compromise scam, criminals impersonate an email message or website to make their communication appear to be from a known source making a request, such as a money transfer.
Abbas also admitted a conspiracy to defraud a Qatari businessman more than 1 million dollars.
“The defendants allegedly falsified school funding in Qatar by impersonating bank officials and creating a fake website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to continue the elaborate pretenses after the victim was tipped off,” Acting U.S. Attorney Atty. : Tracy L. Wilkison said in his statement last year.
Since his arrest, Abbas said he has had time to reflect on his mistakes.
“On your honor, I do not make any excuses for my actions and I take full responsibility for what I have done,” he wrote in his letter. “If I could turn back the hands of time, I would have made a completely different decision and be more careful about my choices and friends.”
One of his co-conspirators pleaded guilty in November 2020 to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He he also served 11 years in federal prison and must pay more than $30 million in restitution.
Federal investigators have described Abbas as a prolific money launderer who used his social media platform to gain notoriety and flaunt his wealth.
Abbas, a Nigerian national living in Dubai, made no secret of his lavish lifestyle. Before his arrest, he referred to himself on Snapchat as the “Billionaire Master of Gucci.”
“Started the day with sushi at Nobu in Monte Carlo, Monaco, then decided to book a helicopter for a facial at the Christian Dior spa in Paris, then ended the day with champagne at Gucci,” she captioned the photo. on Instagram 2020
Photos of him posing with a variety of Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz and Rolls-Royce models included the hashtag #AllMine. Others showed him rubbing elbows with international sports stars and other celebrities.
In a 2020 affidavit, federal officials detailed how his social media accounts provided details needed to verify his identity.
Registration and account security information associated with his Instagram profile, for example, included an email address and phone number. Federal officials had access to that information and were able to link the email and phone number to financial transactions and transfers with people the FBI believed to be his associates.
Even Abbas’ Instagram birthday party photos helped the investigation.
One such post showed a birthday cake bearing the Fendi logo and a miniature of Abbas surrounded by small shopping bags. Investigators used that record to verify the date of birth he used on a previous U.S. visa application.
In June 2020, United Arab Emirates investigators raided Abbas’ apartment at Dubai’s exclusive Palazzo Versace resort, arrested him and handed him over to FBI agents.
Investigators at the scene seized about $41 million, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8 million, phone and computer evidence, including the email addresses of nearly 2 million potential victims, Dubai Police said in a statement.
“Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings in my life. Keep shaming those waiting for me to be shamed,” Abbas captioned a picture of the Rolls-Royce on Instagram just two weeks before his dramatic arrest.
The account has since been removed.
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