Influencer Faces 20 Years In Jail After $24 Million Scam
A Nigerian influencer has pleaded guilty to money laundering after scamming victims out of more than $24 million to fund his lavish lifestyle.
Ramon Abbas, also known as Hushpuppi, faces 20 years in prison for targeting multiple victims through a fundraising campaign for a fake children’s school in Qatar, and laundering his funds in banks across the worlds.
Kristi Johnson, acting director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, described Hushpuppi as one of the ‘most high-profile money launderers in the world’. The influencer gained millions of followers on Instagram by showing off his extravagant Dubai life, posting images of Bentleys and private jets that prosecutors say were in fact bought by ‘laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists’.
In a statement, Johnson said the 37-year-old’s ‘celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organisations and led to several spin-off schemes in the US and abroad,’ describing his guilty plea as a ‘a crucial blow to this international network’.
In one hustle, Hushpuppi scammed a single person out of $1.1 million, with dozens more victims targeted by the influencer and his network between January 2019 and June 2020, when Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai, BBC News reports.
At the time of his arrest, Dubai police said they discovered $40m in cash, 13 luxury cars, 21 computers, 47 smartphones and the addresses of nearly two million alleged victims.
Hushpuppi’s lawyer Gal Pissetzky had initially claimed that his client had not acted illegally, and accused the FBI of ‘kidnapping’ the influencer.
‘He is a social media influencer with millions of followers, with millions of people that respect and loved him, and he loved them, and that’s what he did. In today’s society, that’s a business,’ Pissetzky told BBC News in July last year.
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