Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Ramon Abbas, known as “Hushpuppi” has admitted his involvement in a conspiracy to defraud a Qatari businessman of more than $1m, the U.S. Justice Department has said.
Abbas, 37, also admitted to laundering money “through bank accounts around the world,” including “several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses,” the statement released Wednesday added.
He pleaded guilty to the charges on April 20, according to court documents which were only unsealed Wednesday.
Hushpuppi, 37, is known for posting photos of his lavish lifestyle on Instagram, where he has 2.5m followers.
Court documents filed in California said Hushpuppi’s crimes cost victims almost $24m (£17m) in total.
In one scheme, Hushpuppi attempted to steal more than $1.1m from someone who wanted to fund a new children’s school in Qatar, the documents said.
Court records unsealed this week show he pleaded guilty to this charge on 20 April.The documents state that between 18 January 2019 and 9 June 2020, Hushpuppi and others targeted multiple victims and laundered the illicit funds in banks all over the world.
They add that he could face up to 20 years in prison, and will need to “pay full restitution to the victim(s)”.
Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai, where he lived, in June 2020.
In a statement, acting United States Attorney Tracy Wilkinson said Hushpuppi and others faked the financing of the school “by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website”.
They also “bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretence going after the victim was tipped off”.
Hushpuppi, who she said “played a significant role” in the scam, “funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists”.
Abbas was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in June last year after local police raided his Dubai apartment.
Nearly $41 million in cash, 13 luxury cars valued at around $6.8 million, and phone and computer evidence containing more than 100,000 fraud files and the addresses of nearly two million possible victims were found during the raid, according to Dubai Police.
He was arrested alongside another Nigerian man Olalekan Jacob Ponle aka “Woodberry” in a joint operation with United States agents known as “Foxhunt 2,” Dubai police said.
Abbas was handed over to FBI agents, and was later transferred to Los Angeles to face trial on charges of money laundering through cybercrime schemes.