A prolific international fraudster who conspired to launder tens of millions of dollars through a series of online scams and flaunted his luxurious, crime-funded lifestyle on social media was sentenced today to 135 months in federal prison.
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, a 40-year-old Nigerian national, also known by his Instagram handle, “Ray Hushpuppi,” was sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who also ordered Abbas to pay $1,732,841 in restitution to two fraud victims.
Abbas pleaded guilty in April 2021 to one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He was arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in June 2020 and has remained in federal custody since his expulsion from the UAE.
“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 conspired with Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, a convicted money launderer, to launder funds derived from various crimes, including bank cyber-heists, business email compromise (BEC) schemes and other online frauds. BEC schemes typically involve gaining unauthorized access to a business email account and attempting to trick a victim business into making an unauthorized wire transfer.
In January 2019, Abbas conspired with Alaumary to launder funds stolen from a bank in Malta by providing account information for banks in Romania and Bulgaria. The United States has charged North Korean hackers with committing the bank cyber-heist in Malta, and alleged that those funds were destined for the North Korean government. Abbas has admitted that the intended loss with respect to the Maltese bank was approximately $14.7 million.
In May 2019, Abbas conspired with Alaumary to launder millions of pounds stolen from a professional soccer club in the United Kingdom as well as a British company. In connection with that scheme, Abbas provided Alaumary with details for a bank account in Mexico that “could handle millions and not block,” according to court documents.
Abbas also fraudulently induced a New York-based law firm in October 2019 to transfer approximately $922,857 to an account that a co-conspirator controlled under someone else’s name.
Alaumary was charged separately and pleaded guilty in November 2020 to one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He is serving a 140-month federal prison sentence and was ordered to pay more than $30 million in restitution.
Abbas also admitted in his plea agreement to conspiring with others to defraud an individual in Qatar who sought a loan of $15 million to build a school.
At today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Wright ordered Abbas to pay $922,857 in restitution to the law firm victim and $809,983 in restitution to the businessperson in Qatar.
Abbas and another conspirator duped the victim businessperson into paying approximately $330,000 to fund an “investor’s account” to facilitate the loan. Abbas specifically directed the victim to send $100,000 to a bank account controlled by a co-conspirator, and $230,000 to the bank account of a luxury watch seller. Abbas used those funds for his personal benefit, including purchasing a $230,000 Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which he arranged to have brought to him from New York to Dubai. The watch made numerous appearances on Abbas’ wrist on his now-defunct Instagram account, often with the hashtag #RichardMille.
Approximately $50,000 of proceeds from the scheme were used to fraudulently acquire a St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis citizenship and a passport for Abbas through a sham marriage to a St. Kitts citizen.
In January and February 2020, Abbas and another conspirator corresponded with the victim businessperson, attempting to fraudulently induce a further payment of $575,000 in purported taxes to release the $15 million loan. In February 2020, the victim sent approximately $299,983 to Kenyan bank accounts specified by another conspirator. In March 2020, Abbas fraudulently induced the victim to send another $180,000 to U.S.-based bank accounts; those funds were subsequently laundered with assistance from 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.”
The FBI investigated this matter as part of Operation Top Dog. The FBI thanks the government of the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai Police Department for their substantial assistance in this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Khaldoun Shobaki of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section prosecuted this case. The Justice Department Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this matter.
Source: US Department of Justice