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US charges Instagram celebrity ‘Ray Hushpuppi’ in Qatar school scam

Published: Updated:

Instagram celebrity known as Ray Hushpuppi has been charged for stealing more than $1.1 million in an elaborate scam in which he faked the financing of a Qatari school.

The 37-year-old whose real name is Ramon Abbas was charged, with five others, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, and aggravated identity theft, according to a statement by the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District for California.

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Abbas, who loves to flaunt his wealth on Instagram with pictures of himself alongside luxury cars and jets, has pleaded guilty to the charges, the statement said.

About $230,000 of the stolen funds allegedly were used to purchase a luxury Richard Mille watch, which was hand delivered to Abbas in Dubai and subsequently appeared in Hushpuppi’s social media posts.

About $230,000 of the stolen funds allegedly were used to purchase a luxury Richard Mille watch, seen here in a post by ‘Ray Hushpuppi’ on his Instagram account.
About $230,000 of the stolen funds allegedly were used to purchase a luxury Richard Mille watch, seen here in a post by ‘Ray Hushpuppi’ on his Instagram account.

The FBI has thanked the United Arab Emirates and Dubai Police for their “substantial assistance” in the arrest of Abbas.

Court documents ordered unsealed this week outline the role Abbas played in the school-finance scheme, as well as several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses.

“The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari school by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “Mr Abbas, who played a significant role in the scheme, funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists who use increasingly sophisticated means.”

Wilkison also said business email compromise scams are a “massive and growing international crime problem.”

Investigators were able to track his movements by his online activity and celebrity status, according to Kristi Johnson, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office

“Mr Abbas, among the most high-profile money launderers in the world, has admitted to his significant role in perpetrating global BEC fraud, a scheme currently plaguing Americans,” she said. “His celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organizations and led to several spin-off schemes in the US and abroad.”

How the scheme played out

According to the indictment, Abbas allegedly conspired with Abdulrahman Imraan Juma, a.k.a. “Abdul,” 28, of Kenya, and Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, 40, of Nigeria, to defraud the Qatari businessperson by claiming to be consultants and bankers who could facilitate a loan to finance construction of the planned school.

Juma allegedly posed as a facilitator and consultant for the illusory bank loans, while Abbas played the role of “Malik,” a Wells Fargo banker in New York, according to court documents. Vincent, in turn, allegedly provided support for the false narratives fed to the victim by, among other things, creating bogus documents and arranging for the creation of a fake bank website and phone banking line.

Yusuf Adekinka Anifowoshe, a.k.a. “AJ,” 26, of Brooklyn, New York, allegedly played a role in the fraud, assisting Abbas with a call to the victim posing as “Malik.”

Special agents with the FBI arrested Anifowoshe in New York on July 22.

The conspirators allegedly defrauded the victim out of more than $1.1 million.

The proceeds of the fraud allegedly were laundered in several ways. According to the indictment, Abbas was assisted in laundering the proceeds of the fraud by Rukayat Motunraya Fashola, a.k.a. “Morayo,” 28, of Valley Stream, New York, and Bolatito Tawakalitu Agbabiaka, a.k.a. “Bolamide,” 34, of Linden, New Jersey. These two defendants also were arrested on July 22 by FBI agents.

In addition to the luxury watch, other illicit proceeds from the scheme were allegedly converted into cashier’s checks, including $50,000 in checks that were used by Abbas and a co-conspirator to fraudulently acquire a St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship, as well as a passport for Abbas obtained by creating a false marriage certificate and then bribing a government official in St. Kitts.

Abbas faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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