A notorious worldwide con artist, Hushpuppi, who used a network of online schemes to launder tens of millions of dollars was sentenced to 135 months in federal prison today. He also used social media to boast about his extravagant, crime-funded lifestyle.
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, a 40-year-old Nigerian native also known as “Ray Hushpuppi” on Instagram, was sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who also required Abbas to pay $1,732,841 in compensation to two fraud victims.
In April 2021, Abbas entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering. He was detained by the federal government after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates when he was apprehended in Dubai in June 2020.
“Abbas bragged on social media about his lavish lifestyle – a lifestyle funded by his involvement in transnational fraud and money laundering conspiracies targeting victims around the world,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “Money laundering and business email compromise scams are a massive international crime problem, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement and international partners to identify and prosecute those involved, wherever they may be.”
“Ramon Abbas, a.k.a. ‘Hushpuppi,’ targeted both American and international victims, becoming one of the most prolific money launderers in the world,” said Don Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “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.”
Abbas and Ghaleb Alaumary, a 37-year-old convicted money launderer from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, planned to launder money obtained from a variety of crimes, including bank cyber-heists, business email compromise (BEC) schemes, and other internet frauds. BEC fraud usually entails breaking into a victim company’s email account and trying to persuade them to send an unlawful wire transfer.
By giving account details for banks in Romania and Bulgaria in January 2019, Abbas and Alaumary planned to launder money that had been fraudulently obtained from a bank in Malta. North Korean hackers are accused by the United States of carrying out the bank cyber-heist in Malta, and it is claimed that the stolen cash was intended for the North Korean government.
Abbas has acknowledged that the Maltese bank’s projected loss was roughly $14.7 million.
Abbas and Alaumary hatched a plan in May 2019 to launder millions of pounds that had been fraudulently obtained from a British business and a professional soccer team in the UK. According to court documents, Abbas sent Alaumary information on a bank account in Mexico that “could manage millions and not block” in connection with that plan.
Abbas also deceitfully persuaded a New York-based legal firm to transfer $922,857 to an account that a co-conspirator controlled in someone else’s name in October 2019.
Alaumary was prosecuted separately and entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in November 2020. He was sentenced to 140 months in federal prison and must now pay over $30 million in reparations.
Abbas acknowledged in his plea deal that he and others had planned to mislead a person in Qatar who had applied for a $15 million loan to construct a school.
At the sentencing hearing today, Judge Wright mandated that Abbas pay $809,983 in compensation to the Qatari businessman and $922,857 in restitution to the law firm victim.
The victim businessman was tricked by Abbas and a second conspirator into paying about $330,000 to finance a “investor’s account” in order to make the loan. Abbas gave the victim precise instructions to wire $230,000 to a luxury watch seller’s bank account and $100,000 to a co-bank conspirator’s account. Abbas exploited those cash for his own gain, spending some of them on a $230,000 Richard Mille RM11-03 watch that he had shipped from New York to Dubai. On his now-defunct Instagram account, Abbas frequently posted pictures of the watch on his wrist along with the hashtag #RichardMille.
Through a fake marriage to a St. Kitts native, Abbas falsely obtained a citizenship and passport for St. Christopher (St. Kitts and Nevis) using about $50,000 of the scheme’s earnings.
Abbas and a second conspirator wrote to the victim businessperson in January and February 2020 in an effort to falsely coerce them into paying an additional $575,000 in said taxes in order to release the $15 million loan. The victim sent about $299,983 to Kenyan bank accounts designated by a different conspirator in February 2020. Abbas tricked the victim into sending an additional $180,000 to American bank accounts in March 2020; the money were later laundered with the help of several co-conspirators.
“By his own admission, during just an 18-month period defendant conspired to launder over $300 million,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “While much of this intended loss did not ultimately materialize, [Abbas’] willingness and ability to participate in large-scale money laundering highlights the seriousness of his criminal conduct.”
This matter was looked at by the FBI as part of Operation Top Dog. The FBI expresses gratitude to the Dubai Police Department and the government of the United Arab Emirates for their important support in this case.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Khaldoun Shobaki of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section. The Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division was extremely helpful in this case.