The U.S. government has debunked reports that Hushpuppi, the popular Nigerian influencer being detained for money laundering, committed a $400,000 fraud from prison, BBC reported.
The 37-year-old influencer, born Ramon Abbas, was apprehended by Emirati authorities in 2020 on suspicion of defrauding his victims to the tune of over $20 million. He was subsequently extradited to the United States to face trial after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles brought charges against him. He’s currently awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to money laundering.
The misleading report of Hushpuppi committing fraud from prison was circulated on social media on Thursday. A document claimed the FBI had tabled new evidence against the 37-year-old after he was found to have allegedly defrauded Americans by using internet services in prison. The document claimed the evidence was filed on Wednesday.
And though the source of the document in question is unknown, many news outlets reportedly picked the story up after it went viral on social media. But a U.S. Department of Justice official told BBC that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles hadn’t brought any such evidence against Hushpuppi.
“The document appears to have been fabricated… We have checked with the FBI who supposedly authored the document, and they confirm it is a fake,” the official said.
Hushpuppi, who was based in Dubai prior to his arrest, was known for his ostentatious lifestyle and the flaunting of his wealth and luxurious acquisitions to his millions of followers on social media, Face2Face Africa reported.
Among the charges that the accused pleaded guilty to include an alleged attempt by him and his co-conspirators 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.”
Describing how the accused persons went about it in a statement, acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison explained: “The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari school by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off.”
Wilkison added Hushpuppi “played a significant role in the scheme” and “funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists.”
Hushpuppi also pleaded guilty to causing a Malta-based bank to lose $14.7 million as well as causing another $7.7 million loss in another case involving different victims, Forbes reported. And per court documents, Hushpuppi is required to “pay full restitution to the victim(s).”
Prior to pleading guilty, Hushpuppi’s former lawyer, Gal Pissetzky, had told Forbes in July 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.”
And when Pissetzky was asked the source of his client’s wealth, he replied, “He’s an entrepreneur. He has real estate involvement … [he’s] an Instagram personality. He was promoting brands and that’s how he was very legitimately making his money.”