A Nigerian scammer who flaunted private jets and luxury cars on Instagram has been sentenced to 11 years in prison over charges related to multimillion-dollar scams targeting U.S. and international companies.
Last April, Ramon Abbas, known on Instagram as “Ray Hushpuppi”, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to launder money. In addition to the prison sentence handed down on Monday, United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II ordered him to pay $1.7 million in restitution to two fraud victims.
Abbas, 40, has suffered a spectacular downfall since he was arrested at his luxurious Dubai mansion in June 2020. While in federal detention in Los Angeles before his sentencing, Abbas’ once flamboyant social media account went quiet — despite gaining 500,000 new followers since his arrest.
In September, Abbas detailed his two years of detention in a handwritten letter to the judge – the only direct communication he has had since his arrest.
“While incarcerated, I have had plenty of time to reflect on the past, and I regret letting greed ruin the good name of my family, my blessing, and my name,” he stated.
Federal investigators allege that Abbas financed his extravagant lifestyle through online hacking schemes that netted more than $24 million. He had posted videos of himself tossing wads of cash like confetti on social media.
According to a federal sentencing memorandum from the US Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California, he targeted a US law firm, a foreign bank, and an unidentified British professional soccer club.
“We will continue to work with law enforcement and international partners to identify and prosecute those involved in money laundering and business email compromise scams, wherever they may be,” said Martin Estrada, a United States attorney.
His September letter to Judge Wright described how his co-conspirators used him to identify businesses to scam or to request banking information to transfer fraudulently obtained money.
A staggering amount of money was involved in his alleged cybercrime.
In federal documents, Abbas and a co-conspirator conspired to get a New York law firm to wire nearly $923,000 to a bank account they controlled for a real estate refinancing for a client. In an email sent to an address that appeared to be a legitimate bank email address, but was later identified as a fake, a paralegal at the firm received fraudulent wire instructions.
Using such a scam, criminals mimic a legitimate email or website to appear to be communicating with a legitimate source and making a request, such as a money transfer.
In addition, Abbas confessed to defrauding a Qatari businessman of more than $1 million.
“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,” said Tracy L. Wilkison, acting US attorney in a statement last year.
According to Abbas, he has reflected on his mistakes since his arrest.
In his letter, he wrote, “I take full responsibility for my actions. If I could turn back time, I would make a completely different decision and be more careful in my choices and relationships.”
A co-conspirator pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering in November 2020. He is serving 11 years in federal prison and has to pay more than $30 million in restitution.
Investigators say Abbas used his social media platform to gain notoriety and brag about his wealth and was a prolific money launderer.
Before his arrest, Abbas identified himself on Snapchat as the “Billionaire Gucci Master,” a Nigerian based in Dubai.
“I started my day with sushi at Nobu in Monte Carlo, Monaco, then flew to Paris to have … facials at the Christian Dior spa before finishing my day with champagne at Gucci,” he wrote in a photo caption on Instagram in 2020.
He posed with multiple Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz and Rolls-Royce models, as well as rubbing elbows with international sports stars and celebrities. All financed by his ill-gotten gains.
The federal government detailed how his social media accounts provided details needed to confirm his identity in a 2020 affidavit.
Abbas was arrested and handed over to FBI agents in June 2020 after UAE investigators swooped into his apartment at the Palazzo Versace resort in Dubai.
A statement from Dubai Police said investigators seized nearly $41 million, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8 million, and phone and computer evidence, including the email addresses of nearly 2 million possible victims.
Just two weeks before his arrest, Abbas captioned an Instagram picture of a Rolls-Royce with “Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings.”
Since then, the account has been deleted.