A Nigerian man charged with conspiring to launder a fortune from email scams, and who showed off his wealth to 2.4 million Instagram followers, has arrived in the U.S. to face charges, prosecutors said Friday.
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, or “Hushpuppi” on Instagram and Snapchat, made an initial court appearance in Chicago after arriving with the FBI from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been living, prosecutors said in a statement. He is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles to face charges pending there in the coming weeks, they said.
Abbas allegedly conspired with others to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in scams targeting a law firm, a bank and an English Premier League soccer club, according to a criminal complaint filed last month in federal court.
Messages sent to his Instagram and Snapchat accounts seeking comment Friday were not immediately returned. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer representing him.
Abbas’s Instagram account is flooded with displays of wealth, from luxury cars to private jets, as well as videos and photos of him globe-trotting with celebrities including a Manchester City soccer player, a Nigerian singer and a Turkish chef.
“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,” Nick Hanna, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
UAE authorities arrested Abbas last month, and FBI agents took custody of him this week, prosecutors said.
Abbas and the unnamed others in his network specialized in what are known as “business email compromise” schemes, authorities said. That type of schemegenerally involves gaining unauthorized access to a corporate email account or otherwise tricking a business into sending a wire transfer to the scammers.
Business email compromise scams accounted for $1.7 billion in alleged losses last year, according to the FBI.
A client of an unnamed New York-based law firm lost about $923,000 last year after Abbas and others tricked a paralegal into wiring them money that was intended for the client’s real estate financing, the FBI said.
Another scheme involved $14.7 million stolen from a non-U.S. financial institution last year.