An Instagram influencer has been jailed for more than 11 years over a global, multi-million dollar scam which targeted a Premier League club.
Ramon Abbas, who was known to his followers as Ray Hushpuppi, was sentenced by a California judge to 135 months and ordered to pay in excess of $1.7m (£1.5m) to two fraud victims.
The Nigerian national was transferred to the US to be charged more than two years ago after his dramatic arrest by Dubai police during a raid on his home dubbed Operation Fox Hunt 2.
Abbas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering in April 2021, having targeted American and international victims with online scams.
Don Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, described the 40-year-old online celebrity as “one of the most prolific money launderers in the world”.
He used his “considerable following” of around 2.8 million on Instagram to “brag about the immense wealth he acquired by conducting business email compromise scams, online bank heists, and other cyber-enabled fraud”.
Some victims were left “financially ruined” and his operation even provided assistance to the North Korean regime, according to Mr Alway.
The Premier League club
Abbas tried to steal £100m from an unidentified Premier League club in May 2019, prosecutors say.
He conspired with convicted Canadian money launderer, Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, during the operation, which also targeted another British company.
In connection with the scheme, Abbas provided his co-conspirator with details for a bank account in Mexico that “could handle millions and not block”.
The North Korean regime
In January 2019, Abbas and Alaumary conspired to launder funds stolen from a bank in Malta by providing account information for other banks in Romania and Bulgaria.
The Malta cyber-heist would allegedly have seen the funds head for Pyongyang, and the US has also charged three North Korean hackers in connection with the crime.
Abbas admitted the intended loss was $14.7m (£12.8m), which would have been part of the total £1.2bn (£1bn) the hackers are accused of trying to steal from banks in a number of countries.
Operation Top Dog
Other schemes included Abbas fraudulently inducing a New York law firm to transfer more than $922,000 (£804,000) to a fellow conspirator’s account under someone else’s name, and attempting to defraud an individual in Qatar who wanted a $15m loan to build a school.
Among the luxuries Abbas spent his money on was a $230,000 (£200,000) Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which he regularly showed off on his Instagram account.
His demise was the result of an FBI investigation called Operation Top Dog.
US attorney Martin Estrada said: “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.
“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.”
Alaumary is serving a 140-month prison sentence and has been ordered to pay more than $30m (£26.2m) after admitting conspiracy to engage in money laundering in November 2020.