Ramon Igbalode Abass made his his first appearance in a United States court, in Chicago on Friday morning.
The Instagram celebrity who was arrested in Dubai alongside his accomplices in June, in an operation tagged “Fox Hunt 2”, was charged by the federal prosecutors in a complaint filed on June 25, after his extradition from Dubai, where he was arrested, to the United States.
The US Department of Justice released a statement in which Mr. Abass was accused of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank and an English Premier League soccer club.
Federal prosecutors allege that Hush Puppi 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”.
If convicted, the suspected fraudster who is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles in coming weeks, will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in a US federal prison. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anil J. Antony and Joseph B. Woodring of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.
Read part of the statement below.
“BEC schemes as 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.
“BEC schemes are one of the most difficult cybercrimes we encounter as they typically involve a coordinated group of con artists scattered around the world who have experience with computer hacking and exploiting the international financial system,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “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. As this case demonstrates, my office will continue to hold such criminals accountable, no matter where they live.
“In 2019 alone, the FBI recorded $1.7 billion in losses by companies and individuals victimized through business email compromise scams, the type of scheme Mr. Abbas is charged with conducting from abroad.
“Technology has essentially erased geographic boundaries leaving trans-national criminal syndicates to believe that they are beyond the reach of law enforcement. The success in this case was the direct result of our trusted partnerships between the Department of Justice and our federal law enforcement colleagues. These partnerships helped dismantle a sophisticated organized crime group who preyed upon unsuspecting businesses. It is thanks to these partnerships that the American people can feel a bit more secure today.”
Among the charges Hush Puppi faces is alleged conspiracy 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.
He is also accused of spearheading a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019 and for conspiring to launder funds stolen in a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution in February 2019.