Instagram star ‘Hushpuppi’ in federal custody after global fraud sting

More than $1.6 billion may have been stolen over time, reports say

Credit: Social media photo

Credit: Social media photo

A well-known social media influencer was arrested last week in Dubai and turned over to the FBI, charged as the ringleader of a lucrative international conspiracy that involved money laundering, hacking websites, identity theft and bank fraud.

More than $1.6 billion may have been stolen over time, according to reports.

Raymond Abbas, a 37-year-old Nigerian national popularly known as Hushpuppi, has 2.4 million followers on Instagram, where he shares countless photos of himself traveling the world in a private jet and decked out in luxury cars and designer clothes.

Investigators were reportedly able to track his movements through his various social media posts.

Abbas has already made a first appearance in court in Chicago following a monthslong federal investigation, according to several news reports.

Court documents filed by the U.S. Department of Justice accuse Abbas of conspiring "to launder hundreds of millions of dollars ... including one scheme to steal $124 million from an English Premier League soccer club."

He could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

Credit: Social media photo

Credit: Social media photo

“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,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said, according to reports.

Hanna said the gang was made up of “con artists around the world” who knew how to take advantage of the international financial system.

Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, reportedly praised the Dubai Police for a series of coordinated raids last Thursday that led to the arrest of 12 suspects, including a man named Olalekan Jacob Ponle, also known as Woodbery, who is accused of being Abbas’ main accomplice, reports said.

The raid, in which agents burst into Hushpuppi’s home as he slept, uncovered a paper trail of fraud, authorities allege.

Credit: Social media photo

Credit: Social media photo

Investigators said they seized 21 computers, 47 smartphones, 15 memory cards, five hard disks as well as the personal information of nearly 2 million victims and a trove of documents.

“The forged documents pertained to online fraud outside the country. ... We seized more than $150 million in cash from them and confiscated 13 luxury cars worth $25 million,” said Jamal Al Jallaf, the director of Criminal Investigation Department with the Dubai Police.

The gang worked out of the United Arab Emirates and used an encrypted online network to hack into private email and data of several major corporations. Once inside a company’s protocol, the suspects allegedly stole credit card and bank account numbers, duped company employees into making money transfers and steered the loot to personal bank accounts, authorities allege.

“They were designing and mimicking company and bank websites to steal credit card data and illegally obtain victims’ money before laundering the cash,” said Al Jallaf.

Hushpuppi's Instragram account is still active, although he has not made any posts since June 6. That's the day he posted a picture of a Rolls-Royce and the hashtag AllMine. In the caption, he wrote: "May success and prosperity not be a 'once upon a time' story in your life."

Hushpuppi posted his first photo to Instagram in October 2012, showing himself dressed nondescript, standing behind a Range Rover while holding a bottle of water.

But by 2014, Hushpuppi’s posts took a more opulent turn, and he appears to trade in Gap jeans and tees for plush velvet Versace robes, Fendi jumpsuits, Louis Vuitton blankets and Gucci handbags.

Credit: Social media photo

Credit: Social media photo

In one image, he sits on the hood of a Lamborghini in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

A couple videos from 2019 show Abbas being personally fed sliced lamb chop by the Salt Bae chef.

“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. The FBI’s investigation has revealed that Abbas finances this opulent lifestyle through crime.”