A Nigerian influencer who dubbed himself “Billionaire Gucci Master” has been jailed for over 11 years for his role in an international fraud syndicate in which he conspired to launder over $300 million.
Described by the FBI as as “one of the most prolific money launderers in the world,” Ramon Abbas, who went by Ray Hushpuppi on social media, attracted a following of over 2.8 million on Instagram by flaunting his immensely lavish lifestyle, complete with luxury cars and private jets.
Abbas, 40, funded his excessive habits through multiple counts of fraud, according to court documents, and has now been sentenced, along with a Canadian man, to 135 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to money laundering. A Los Angeles judge ordered Abbas to pay over $1.7 million in restitution to two of his victims.
Over an 18-month period, court documents reveal, he helped launder over $300 million by engaging in online bank heists and business email compromise (BEC), a crime that involves impersonating others by hacking into email accounts and persuading victims to wire them money. Abbas says he only made $300,000 for himself through his crimes.
Abbas’s victims included a New York law firm which he persuaded to wire $900,000 into a criminal account, an unnamed British football club, and someone who was going to use their money to fund a new school in Qatar.
In 2019, Abbas attempted to launder $13 million stolen by North Korean hackers from Malta’s Bank of Valletta, which subsequently shut down payment systems, throwing the European country into chaos.
Victims were “financially ruined”
“Abbas leveraged his social media platforms…to gain notoriety and to brag about the immense wealth he acquired,” said Don Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, in a court document.
The fraud he committed “financially ruined scores of victims and provided assistance to the North Korean regime,” he added.
“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’s crimes go back years, having first started in romance fraud, according to the BBC, which involves adopting the identities of different people online and persuading lovers to transfer money.
The influencer was originally arrested at a property in Dubai in 2020, from which officials seized around $41 million and 13 luxury cars worth $6.8 million.
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