Hushpuppi, the Nigerian socialite who pleaded guilty to money laundering in a California court last year, has been sentenced to over 11 years in federal prison. Born Ramon Abbas, the then-Dubai-based influencer was known for his ostentatious lifestyle and the flaunting of his wealth and luxurious acquisitions to his millions of followers on social media.
Besides the prison sentence, Abbas must also pay $1,732,841 as restitution to two victims he is accused of defrauding, BBC reported. According to court documents in California, the convicted fraudster admitted to trying to “steal more than $1.1 million from a business person attempting to finance the construction of a school for children in Qatar–and the subsequent laundering of illicit proceeds through bank accounts around the world.”
In a US Justice Department statement, then-acting US Attorney Tracy Wilkinson said that Abbas ultimately had his victim release the money for the school by “playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website.” Abbas is said to have committed the scam with other suspects, the justice department said, adding that he was a key figure in the operation.
Court documents also stated that the convicted Nigerian socialite also confessed to “several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses.”
“Ramon Abbas… targeted both American and international victims, becoming one of the most prolific money launderers in the world,” the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Don Alway, said in a statement on Monday.
“Abbas leveraged his social media platforms – where he amassed a considerable following – 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.
This significant sentence is the result of years’ worth of collaboration among law enforcement in multiple countries and should send a clear warning to international fraudsters that the FBI will seek justice for victims, regardless of whether criminals operate within or outside United States borders.”
In a handwritten note to Judge Otis D Wright, Abbas rendered an apology for his actions, BBC reported. He also said he was going to reimburse his victims with his personal money, adding that he made only $300,000 from the fraudulent activities he was convicted for.
In 2020, Abbas, who was based in Dubai, was arrested by Emirati authorities for his alleged involvement in a series of cybercrime activities targeting companies and individuals, Face2Face Africa reported at the time. He was subsequently taken to the United States to face trial.
Prior to pleading guilty, Hushpuppi’s former lawyer, Gal Pissetzky, had told Forbes that his Nigerian client was “absolutely not guilty of [the] charges they are accusing him of.” Pissetzky argued the Nigerian socialite was “running a legitimate business and a very legitimate Instagram account and did not take part in any scam or fraud.”