An Instagram influencer known as ‘Hushpuppi’ has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for conspiring to launder tens of millions of USD from business email compromise (BEC) scams and various cyber schemes.
The 40-year-old Nigerian’s real name is Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, and was ordered to pay restitution of $1,732,841 to two confirmed victims, a law firm in the U.S. and a businessperson in Qatar.
While not all scams succeeded in defrauding the targets, the U.S. Department of Justice says Abbas admitted to prosecutors that over 18 months, between 2019 and 2022, he conspired to launder over $300 million.
“Ramon Abbas, a.k.a. ‘Hushpuppi,’ targeted both American and international victims, becoming one of the most prolific money launderers in the world,” stated Don Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
In some cases, the money launderer provided his services to North Korean hackers, who attempted to steal money from European banks.
The proceeds Abbas obtained from this activity helped him build a persona on Instagram showing off a lavish lifestyle, where he gained influencer status, further aiding social engineering attacks against targets.
Abbas was eventually arrested in Dubai, UAE, in June 2020 and pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in April 2021.
The DoJ announcement illustrated several examples of Abbas’ attempted scams, summarized below:
January 2019 – offered to launder $14.7 million stolen by North Korean hackers in a Maltese bank cyberheist, directing the amount through accounts in Romania and Bulgaria.
May 2019 – laundered millions of pounds stolen from a professional football (soccer) club in the UK, using Mexican bank accounts.
October 2019 – tricked a New York-based law firm into sending $922,857 to an account under the control of a co-conspirator.
Abbas was involved in other schemes, including fake multi-million loans targeting business people in Qatar. In one case, Abbas tricked a man into paying $330,000 supposedly needed for the approval of the loan.
Abbas’ co-conspirator in many of the above schemes, Ghaled Alaumary, pleaded guilty to money laundering crimes in November 2020 and is currently serving a 140-month imprisonment sentence.
Alaumary was ordered to pay over $30,000,000 in restitution, indicating that he held a more central role in the schemes, being the primary recipient of the stolen funds.