The 37-year-old Nigerian, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas alias Hushpuppi who was arrested in Dubai and extradited to the US last week Thursday on charges alleging he conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, made his first court appearance Friday July 3, 2020 in Chicago. According to a release from the US Department of Justice, Abbas will be transferred to Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, he would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Abbas is facing charges for schemes targeting a US law firm, a foreign bank and an English Premier League soccer club. FBI agents obtained custody of Abbas last week and took him to the US, after Dubai police arrested him last month. He is facing a charge of conspiring to engage in money laundering that is alleged in a criminal complaint filed on June 25 by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.
Citing an affidavit filed with the complaint, the release indicates that 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.
According to the affidavit 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.
BEC, the affidavit explains are schemes often involving a computer hacker gaining unauthorized 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 unauthorized wire transfer.
Abbas and others committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019, the affidavit alleges.
It explains that Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators.
It alleges further that Abbas conspired to launder funds stolen in a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution in February 2019, in which the stolen money was sent to bank accounts around the world. Abbas allegedly provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe that Abbas anticipated each would receive €5 million (about $5.6 million) of the fraudulently obtained funds.
It adds, Abbas and others further conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including one scheme to steal £100 million (approximately $124 million) from an English Premier League soccer club.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi