The United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California has said that Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, and his co-conspirator used crime proceeds to acquire a St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship.
St. Christopher and Nevis is a dual-island nation situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is known for beautiful mountains and beaches, according to Wikipedia.
This was contained in a statement released on Wednesday by the court titled, ‘Six Indicted in International Scheme to Defraud Qatari School Founder and then Launder over $1 Million in Illicit Proceeds’.
The court also said Hushpuppi, who pleaded guilty to various charges, including money laundering, wire fraud, and felony, among others, used Abba Kyari, a leader of the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team, to jail one of his associates named Chibuzo Vincent.
Kyari, however, explained in a Facebook post that Hushpuppi called his office and reported a death threat from someone about two years ago.
The cop said the suspect, Vincent, was arrested but later released after investigations revealed that “they are long time friends who have money issues between them”.
Kyari also said he did not receive any money from Hushpuppi.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that Hushpuppi allegedly conspired with five others — including Vincent — to defraud a businessperson in Qatar by claiming to be consultants and bankers who could facilitate a loan to finance the construction of a school, according to the indictment by the court.
Hushpuppi’s associates include 40-year-old Vincent from Nigeria; and 28-year-old Abdulrahman Juma from Kenya. Others are Yusuf Anifowoshe, 26; Rukayat Fashola, 28; and Bolatito Agbabiaka, 34 — all Nigerian.
“Approximately $230,000 of the stolen funds allegedly were used to purchase a Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which was hand-delivered to Abbas in Dubai and subsequently appeared in Hushpuppi’s social media posts. Other illicit proceeds from the scheme were allegedly converted into cashier’s checks, including $50,000 in checks that were used by Abbas and a co-conspirator to fraudulently acquire a St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship, as well as a passport for Abbas obtained by creating a false marriage certificate and then bribing a government official in St. Kitts,” the statement partly read.
Acting United States Attorney, Tracy Wilkison, said, “Mr. Abbas, who played a significant role in the scheme, funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists who use increasingly sophisticated means. In conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we will identify and prosecute perpetrators of business email compromise scams, which is a massive and growing international crime problem.”
Also, Kristi Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, described Hushpuppi as one of “the most high-profile money launderers in the world”.
“His celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organizations and led to several spin-off schemes in the U.S. and abroad. Today’s announcement deals a crucial blow to this international network and hopefully serves as a warning to potential victims targeted with this type of theft,” Johnson added.
In a plea agreement document sighted by The PUNCH on Wednesday, Hushpuppi pleaded guilty as charged.
The document was signed by Hushpuppi; his lawyer, Loius Shapiro; and Acting United States Attorney, Tracy Wilkison, among others.
It stated that Hushpuppi risks “20 years’ imprisonment; a three-year period of supervised release; a fine of $500,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offence.”
The document, however, did not mention the date of the plea hearing.
Hushpuppi is known to have flaunted his luxury lifestyle in private jets with exotic wines and expensive wristwatches. His social media handles were replete with photos of his ostentatious lifestyle before his arrest last year June in Dubai after which he was extradited to the US where he is being prosecuted for money laundering and internet fraud-related charges.