After months of trials and pre-trials, HushPuppi, the Nigerian Instagram and Snapchat influencer who pleaded guilty last year in an American court of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, was finally sentenced to eleven years in prison for fraud on Monday, in Los Angeles, US.
Born Ramon Abbas, the forty-year-old rose to fame on Instagram in part by posting pictures of himself sporting exotic Gucci fashion items in luxury cars, hotels and destinations across the Arabian Peninsula, whilst preaching to his more than 2 million followers the prosperity gospel of social media of the path to financial breakthrough.
He was arrested in the UAE in 2020, in a raid by the Dubai Interpol and the FBI in an extensive operation named “Fox Hunt 2.” In the video of the raid, HushPuppi was apprehended with twelve other syndicates who had between them over 1.9 million victims
It turned out, months of investigation by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will show, that he had been part of a network of scammers and hackers who have carried out multiple cyber-enabled bank heists.
The American persecutors said of HushPuppi, according to the filing of the case that he is “by all accounts, an ambitious individual, but his ambition has long been directed towards crime and its rewards.”
The persecutors added that his “conduct was reprehensible and deserves serious punishment,” calling him “an equal opportunity criminal,” with a “long history as a scammer and money launderer.”
His attorneys all through the trial painted a picture of a wealthy businessman who unfortunately meddled in cybercrime after being coerced by seasoned hackers in North Korea.
“Mr Abbas was not the leader, organizer, or supervisor in the commission of this offence… Mr Abbas has done everything in his power to right his wrongful acts,” his attorneys said in his defence.
In his April guilty plea from last year, HushPuppi admitted according to a Bloomberg report to “setting up bank accounts in Romania and Bulgaria for Ghaleb Alaumary, a convicted money launderer, through which money from a Maltese bank heist was laundered. The US charged North Korean hackers with stealing or planning to steal, 13 million Euros ($13 million) from the Maltese bank.”
“I was desperate, your honour,” he told the judge during his sentencing this week. “I was very desperate,” he said.
The Bloomberg report also said that “Abbas also set up a bank account in Mexico to help launder money from email scams that targeted a UK professional soccer club and a UK company. Those scams would’ve ripped off the UK victims of 6 million pounds ($6.9 million), the US said.
He also admitted to helping launder money from other victims of fraud, including a New York City law firm and a company in Qatar, according to the US.”
But because Abbas had earlier pleaded guilty to the crimes for which he was charged on Monday, his chances of repealing the verdicts are very slim. However, his lawyers after the sentencing said that nothing is off the table, claiming that the sentencing was not what they had expected. They argued that a four or five-year sentence would have been more justified.
“Everything is on the table,” John Iweanoge, one of his lawyers said. “It was way, way more than we thought,” he added.
HushPuppi also apologized to his victims and promised to repay them in full by selling his two Rolls Royces, a Ferrari and a Range Rover.
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