An Instagram star with 2.4million followers has appeared in court in the United States to face criminal charges over an alleged global scam which included an attempt to steal £100million from a Premier League football club.
Ramon Abbas, known on social media as ‘Hushpuppi’, gained a following online after posting extravagant photographs of five-star hotels and luxury cars.
The Nigerian, 37, currently resides in Dubai, but after being arrested in the UAE last month he was taken to Chicago to appear in court on Friday.
He is set to be transferred to Los Angeles in the next few weeks after a month-long FBI Investigation dubbed ‘Operation Fox Hunt’ led to series of arrests of alleged co-conspirators.
Mr Abbas, who could face a statutory sentence of 20 years in prison if found guilty, and his associates are accused of attempting to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through Business Email Compromise (BEC) frauds, with a top US law firm and a foreign bank said to be targeted.
The football club, which has not been named, was also one of the businesses approached.
“Abbas and others further conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including one scheme to steal £100m (approximately $124m) from an English Premier League soccer club,” the Department of Justice said.
The affidavit supplied with the criminal complaint states: “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.”
United States Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement: “BEC schemes are one of the most difficult cybercrimes we encounter as they typically involve a co-ordinated group of con artists scattered around the world who have experience with computer hacking and exploiting the international financial system.
“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.”
Mr Abbas has so far declined to comment on the allegations.