Popular Instagram celebrity and alleged cyber fraud kingpin, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas aka Hushpuppi has been paraded before a court in the United States of America over criminal charges alleging that he conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an English Premier League soccer club.
The 37-year-old who arrived in Chicago Thursday evening after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) made his initial U.S. court appearance on Friday morning in Chicago, following a criminal complaint filed before the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and he is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
The United States Department for Justice which filed the criminal complaint said that; “If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, Abbas would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in a federal prison.”
FBI’s Special Agent, Andrew John Innocenti, who is leading the investigation, said that; “Beginning no later than October 15, 2019, and continuing through at least October 17, 2019, in the county of Los Angeles, in the Central District of California, and elsewhere, the defendant conspired to launder proceeds fraudulently obtained from a law firm.”
“In 2019 alone, the FBI recorded $1.7 billion in losses by companies and individuals victimized through business email compromise scams, the type of scheme Mr. Abbas is charged with conducting from abroad,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “While this arrest has effectively taken a major alleged BEC player offline, BEC scams represent the most financially costly type of scheme reported to the FBI. I urge anyone who transfers funds personally or on behalf of a company to educate themselves about BEC so they can identify this insidious scheme before losing sizable amounts of money.”
“This was a challenging case, one that spanned international boundaries, traditional financial systems and the digital sphere,” said Jesse Baker, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Los Angeles Field Office. “Technology has essentially erased geographic boundaries leaving trans-national criminal syndicates to believe that they are beyond the reach of law enforcement. The success in this case was the direct result of our trusted partnerships between the Department of Justice and our federal law enforcement colleagues. These partnerships helped dismantle a sophisticated organized crime group who preyed upon unsuspecting businesses. It is thanks to these partnerships that the American people can feel a bit more secure today.”
“BEC schemes are one of the most difficult cybercrimes we encounter as they typically involve a coordinated group of con artists scattered around the world who have experience with computer hacking and exploiting the international financial system,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “This case targets a key player in a large, transnational conspiracy who was living an opulent lifestyle in another country while allegedly providing safe havens for stolen money around the world. As this case demonstrates, my office will continue to hold such criminals accountable, no matter where they live.”
The criminal complaint also alleges that Abbas and others committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019. Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators.
It also alleges that Abbas conspired to launder funds stolen in a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution in February 2019, in which the stolen money was sent to bank accounts around the world. Abbas allegedly provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe that Abbas anticipated would receive €5 million (about $5.6 million) of the fraudulently obtained funds.
If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, in the case being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anil J. Antony and Joseph B. Woodring of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section, Abbas and his co-conspirators would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
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