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Instagram Influencer Hushpuppi Pleads Guilty To Money Laundering

By News Creatives Authors , in Billionaires , at July 29, 2021

The lavish life of fast cars, designer clothes and private jets has come to an end for Nigerian Instagram influencer Ramon “Hushpuppi” Abbas, age 37, after he pleaded guilty in a California court to money laundering and other business email schemes that cost his victims nearly $24 million.

The plea, confirmed by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California, could land Abbas with a prison sentence of up to 20 years, per court documents. Abbas will also need to “pay full restitution to the victim(s),” the documents state.

In a statement, Kristi K. Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, described Abbas as one of the “most high-profile money launderers in the world,” adding, “[Abbas’] celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organizations and led to several spinoff schemes in the U.S. and abroad. Today’s announcement deals a crucial blow to this international network and hopefully serves as a warning to potential victims targeted with this type of theft.”

Abbas and his co-conspirators were charged with attempting to “steal more than $1.1 million from a businessperson attempting to finance the construction of a school for children in Qatar–and the subsequent laundering of illicit proceeds through bank accounts around the world.” Court documents ordered unsealed Wednesday show that Abbas pleaded guilty on April 20.

Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement: “The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari school by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off,” adding, “Mr. Abbas, who played a significant role in the scheme, funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists.”

A Guilty Gucci Master

Ramon Abbas is a Nigerian influencer with over 2.5 million followers on Instagram. Known to his fans as “Hushpuppi,” Abbas has built a global following from posting pictures of his lavish spending on cars, watches, designer clothes and private jets.

In July Mr Abbas’ now former legal representative, Gal Pissetzky of Pissetzky & Berliner, told Forbes that his client is “absolutely not guilty of [the] charges they are accusing him of,” adding, “[Abbas] was running a legitimate business and a very legitimate Instagram account and did not take part in any scam or fraud.” Asked how Abbas paid for his lifestyle, Pissetzky tells Forbes, “He’s an entrepreneur. He has real estate involvement . . . [he’s] an Instagram personality. He was promoting brands and that’s how he was very legitimately making his money.” After a year awaiting trial in a U.S. jail, Abbas has now pleaded guilty.

Abbas was detained by authorities in Dubai in June 2020. Documents released on Wednesday show that between January 18, 2019 and June 9, 2020, Abbas and his co-conspirators targeted multiple victims and laundered funds fraudulently obtained funds through bank cyberheists (authorizing and causing fraudulent wire transfers through SWIFT), and attempts to trick victims into making an unauthorized wire transfer via email.

Abbas has pleaded guilty to inflicting loss amounts of $14.7 million on a bank in Malta, and $7.7 million losses for the so-called “victim companies” in a separate case linked to an unnamed Premier League Club. Two other loss amounts–one to an unnamed law firm, the other to a Qatari businessman–total under $1 million each.

Although these sums are not representative of Abbas’ career earnings, it is very likely that the self-appointed “Billionaire Gucci Master” was never in fact a billionaire. (Forbes does not currently include Abbas on our list of the World’s Billionaires, nor has Forbes ever listed Abbas as a billionaire.)

Abbas’ lawyer had no comment.

More to follow


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