Ramon Abbas is not a real estate developer, but he played one on Instagram.
He boasted a lavish lifestyle with private jets, luxury cars, gourmet meals and lavish international travel. But the Nigerian man popularly known as Ray Hushpuppi on social media was really a prolific money launderer who defrauded companies in the US and abroad out of millions of dollars, according to CNN.
Abbas was sentenced in federal court last week to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution to two victims.
All told, he and co-conspirators stole or conspired to launder more than $300 million through various fraudulent online activities, the Justice Department said.
In one case, Abbas and Ghaleb Alaumary persuaded an attorney at an unnamed New York law firm to transfer more than $900,000, intended for a client’s real estate refinance, to a bank account controlled by the fraudsters.
In 2019, he helped launder $14.7 million stolen by North Korean hackers from a bank in Malta, funneling the money through banks in Romania and Bulgaria. Other victims include a British football club and a person who tried to build a school in Qatar, officials said.
Until his arrest in June 2020, Abbas had quite a ride – in some cases literally – with his ill-gotten gains.
In addition to pictures of him with various sports stars and celebrities, Abbas’ posts include pictures of him posing with Bentleys, Rolls Royces and Ferraris, with the hashtag #AllMine.
“Started my day with sushi 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 with champagne in Gucci,” Abbas wrote in a caption on his now-defunct Instagram account, CNN reported.
But Abbas’s active social media presence, which had millions of followers, also helped stymie him, as officials linked the email address and phone number he used to register his Instagram account to transactions which he apparently made with his co-conspirators.
His posts were also helpful. For example, investigators verified his birthday by matching the one he listed on a U.S. visa application with the date of a posting of a birthday cake covered in a Fendi logo.
Abbas (40) was arrested in June 2020 by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates at a resort in Dubai. He was subsequently turned over to the FBI, which charged him with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
At the time of his arrest, authorities seized more than $40 million, as well as 13 luxury cars worth nearly $7 million and email addresses of millions of potential victims.
Prior to his sentencing, Abbas struck a different tone than the flamboyance displayed during his rampage. In a letter to United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, he expressed regret that he had “allowed greed to ruin the good name of my family, my blessing and my name.”
— Ted Glazer