New details have emerged about the case against Instagram influencer Ramon Abbas popularly known as Hushpuppi, who wowed the internet with pictures of his clothes, cars, money and lifestyle between 2012 and 2020.
In July, Abbas was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles with conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from “business email compromise” (BEC) frauds and other scams. On Wednesday, the Department of Justice shed more light on one of those scams: working with North Korean hackers to launder funds stolen from a Maltese bank.
According to a statement released by the Justice Department, Abbas took part in a “North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019.” In a July statement, the Justice Department referred to the attack as “a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution.” Both the date and amount match that of the attack on Malta’s Bank of Valletta in February 2019.
In July, Abbas’ then-lawyer Gal Pissetzky told Forbes that Abbas was not guilty of the charges and described Abbas as “an entrepreneur” who made his money legitimately through “real estate” and his work “promoting brands” as an “Instagram personality.”
A representative for Abbas could not be reached for comment on the new developments in the case.
Abbas is a Nigerian influencer with more than 2.5 million followers on Instagram. He has built a global following from posting pictures of his lavish spending on cars, watches, designer clothes and private jets.
However, in late June, the 38-year-old was arrested in Dubai and arrived in the U.S. on July 3 to face criminal charges over allegations that he made “hundreds of millions of dollars” from business email compromise frauds and other scams.
His birthday post helped track him down
Abbas made no secret of his opulent lifestyle and remarkable wealth. On Snapchat, he called himself the “Billionaire Gucci Master.”
“Started out my day having sushi down at Nobu in Monte Carlo, Monaco, then decided to book a helicopter to have … facials at the Christian Dior spa in Paris then ended my day having champagne in Gucci,” he posted on Instagram.
$41 million and 13 luxury cars seized
The Nigerian national lived at the exclusive Palazzo Versace in Dubai, and led a global network that used computer intrusions, business email compromise schemes and money laundering to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from companies, federal prosecutors allege.
He worked with multiple co-conspirators and was arrested along with 11 others. Investigators seized nearly $41 million, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8 million, and phone and computer evidence, Dubai Police said in a statement.
They uncovered email addresses of nearly 2 million possible victims on phones, computers and hard drives, Dubai authorities said.
“This case targets a key player in a large, transnational conspiracy who was living an opulent lifestyle in another country while allegedly providing safe havens for stolen money around the world,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.
Abbas’ attorney, Gal Pissetzky, declined to get into details on how his client earns his money. But what he does for a living is going to be “one of the main points of contention here,” he told CNN.
Pissetzky called his client’s arrest a kidnapping, saying Dubai handed him to the United States with “no legal proceedings whatsoever.” Abbas has not been formally indicted, and the government has 30 days to indict him, his attorney said Thursday.