A Nigerian social media star who flaunted a luxurious lifestyle that international authorities say was obtained through illicit means has pleaded guilty to scamming and defrauding a businessman and others out of tens of millions of dollars.
The federal indictment against Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, also known more popularly on Instagram as “Hushpuppi” or “Ray Hushpuppi,” details an effort to steal more than $1 million from a businessman based in the Middle East. Abbas and five others were named in the indictment, but as of Thursday, he was the only one to plead guilty.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) described Abbas, 37, as being “among the most high-profile money launderers in the world” who used his “celebrity status” to help his grifting reach multiple nations.
Abbas was arrested more than a year ago, but the DOJ only announced the indictment and guilty plea on Wednesday. He and the other suspects were indicted for their elaborate roles surrounding a scam to build a school for children when there was never any intention to follow through with the sham plans.
In total, Abbas allegedly orchestrated and took part in scams “that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses.”
The charges to which Abbas pleaded guilty — conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to engage in money laundering and aggravated identity theft — describe an unadulterated, unabashed scammer.
Abbas and the others who were indicted are accused of defrauding a Qatari businessman of $1.1 million, some of which the social media star used to buy the same Richard Mille watch, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, that he showed off on Instagram.
The money was stolen under the false auspices that Abbas would use the funds to build a school for Qatari children.
The DOJ said Abbas “played a significant role in the scheme.”
Abbas is accused of taking that money he defrauded the Qatari businessman out of and laundering it — the illegal process of making large amounts of money generated by criminal activity and having it appear to have come from a legitimate source — through bank accounts around the world.
“Other illicit proceeds from the scheme were allegedly converted into cashier’s checks,” the DOJ said.
Abbas allegedly went to great lengths to keep up his guise of legitimacy, including faking “the financing of a school by posing as bank officials and creating a fake website to convince a Qatari businessman to part with his money,” the DOJ said.
He also used some of the money stolen from the businessman to “fraudulently acquire a St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship, as well as a passport for Abbas obtained by creating a false marriage certificate,” the DOJ claimed.
Abbas also allegedly used a substantial amount of the money he defrauded the businessman out of to bribe a government official in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts in order “to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off,” Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said.
After Abbas and another of his fellow scammers got into a “dispute,” the DOJ said, Abbas allegedly bribed a high-ranking police official in Nigeria to arrest and incarcerate the co-conspirator “at Abbas’ behest.”
The DOJ also said the Nigerian police official “allegedly sent Abbas bank account details for an account into which Abbas could deposit payment for [the] arrest and imprisonment.”
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