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Nigeria’s Hushpuppi pleads guilty to fraud charges in US, risks 20 years in jail

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A Nigerian Instagram influencer, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, popularly known as Hushpuppi, has pleaded guilty to charges that include money laundering, wire fraud, felony amongst others, brought against him by the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Hushpuppi admitted in the United States to taking part in a scam to steal over $1.1 million from a business person attempting to finance the construction of a school in Qatar, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said in a statement that Ramon Abbas, 37, pleaded guilty on April 20, according to documents ordered unsealed on Wednesday.

The document was reported to be signed by Hushpuppi; his lawyer, Loius Shapiro; Acting United States Attorney, Tracy Wilkison, amongst others.

It also stated that Hushpuppi risks 20 years imprisonment, a 3-year period of supervised release, a fine of $500,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offence.

What is stated in the guilty plea document

The document partly read, “Defendant (Hushpuppi) admits that defendant is, in fact, guilty of the offence to which defendant is agreeing to plead guilty.

Beginning no later than, on or about January 18, 2019, through on or about June 9, 2020, defendant knowingly combined, agreed, and conspired with multiple other persons (“coconspirators”) to conduct financial transactions into, within, and outside the United States involving property that represented the proceeds of wire fraud.

These coconspirators included the persons referred to in the Information as UICC 1 and UICC 2, as well as other coconspirators not referred to in the Information. The coconspirators targeted multiple victims and laundered and/or attempted to launder funds fraudulently obtained, and attempted to be fraudulently obtained, through bank cyber-heists,1 business email compromise frauds, and other fraud schemes.

“Defendant understands that the statutory maximum sentence that the Court can impose for a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h), as charged in the Information, is: 20 years’ imprisonment; a 3-year period of supervised release; a fine of $500,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offence, whichever is greatest; and a mandatory special assessment of $100.’’

It also noted that the parties (US Attorney Offices and Hushpuppi) agreed that “the agreement will be considered part of the record of the defendant’s guilt plea hearing as if the entire agreement had been read into the record of the proceeding.”

The document, however, did not mention the date of the plea hearing.

What you should know

Hushpuppy was arrested in Dubai in June 2020 alongside 12 other members of his gang with about 1,926,400 people from different parts of the world reported to have fallen victims to the suspects.

The Dubai Police later handed Abbas and his conspirators over to the FBI in the US and they had since been arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, among others.

He was also accused by the Justice Department in February of helping North Korean hackers launder money and playing a supporting role in cyber scams perpetrated by three computer programmers accused of extorting $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency.

Abbas took part in scams that resulted in a total of $24 million in losses to the victims.

 

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