Hushpuppi to Spend 9 Years in US Prison

Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, also known as Ray Hushpuppi

Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, also known as Ray Hushpuppi

Bennett Oghifo

The United States Central District Court in California yesterday sentenced Nigerian-born, Ramon Abbas, also known as Hushpuppi, to 11 years in a U.S. prison for international Internet fraud, but will spend nine years, having spent two years there already.

The Judge Oits Wright said the sentencing would be concluded on November 7, 2022 and that all parties have been informed of this development. The court’s statement shifting the sentencing said, “counsel are notified, the Sentencing is continued to November 7, 2022 at 11:30 a.m. as to Defendant Ramon Olorunwa Abbas.”

The sentence hearing was initially moved by Judge Wright from February 14, 2022 to July 11, then to September 21 and now November 7.

The United States Attorney’s Office for Central District of California, Los Angeles had said it would sentence Hushpuppi, for alleged international Internet fraud, on September 21, 2022 and was expected to face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Hushpuppi appealed and pleaded for leniency and reduced jail time.

A statement issued in July 2020 by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California titled “Nigerian National Brought to U.S. to Face Charges of Conspiring to Launder Hundreds of Millions of Dollars from Cybercrime Schemes”, said Abbas.

a Dubai resident who flaunted his extravagant lifestyle on social media arrived in the United States to face criminal charges alleging he conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an English Premier League soccer club.

The statement said Abbas, 37, a.k.a. “Ray Hushpuppi” and “Hush,” a Nigerian national, arrived in Chicago after being arrested by United Arab Emirates (UAE) law enforcement officials and expelled from that country. He made his initial U.S. court appearance in Chicago and was then transferred to Los Angeles.

The FBI special agents obtained custody of Abbas and brought him to the United States to face a charge of conspiring to engage in money laundering that is alleged in a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.

According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Abbas maintains social media accounts that frequently showed him in designer clothes, wearing expensive watches, and posing in or with luxury cars and charter jets. “The FBI’s investigation has revealed that Abbas finances this opulent lifestyle through crime, and that he is one of the leaders of a transnational network that facilitates computer intrusions, fraudulent schemes (including BEC schemes), and money laundering, targeting victims around the world in schemes designed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The affidavit describes BEC schemes as often involving a computer hacker gaining unauthorised access to a business’ email account, blocking or redirecting communications to and/or from that email account, and then using the compromised email account or a separate fraudulent email account to communicate with personnel from a victim company and to attempt to trick them into making an unauthorised wire transfer.

“BEC schemes are one of the most difficult cybercrimes we encounter as they typically involve a coordinated group of con artists scattered around the world who have experience with computer hacking and exploiting the international financial system,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “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. As this case demonstrates, my office will continue to hold such criminals accountable, no matter where they live.

“In 2019 alone, the FBI recorded $1.7 billion in losses by companies and individuals victimized through business email compromise scams, the type of scheme Mr. Abbas is charged with conducting from abroad,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

“While this arrest has effectively taken a major alleged BEC player offline, BEC scams represent the most financially costly type of scheme reported to the FBI. I urge anyone who transfers funds personally or on behalf of a company to educate themselves about BEC so they can identify this insidious scheme before losing sizable amounts of money.”

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