A Dubai-based influencer with numerous luxury vehicles, a private jet, a $US150,000 ($214,875) watch, and miles upon miles of Louis Vuitton print fabric, purportedly gained through real estate development, has been arrested and faces criminal charges for alleged conspiracy to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from frauds and other scams. His downfall was, in part, too much Instagram. Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, aka The Billionaire Gucci Master, currently has 2.5 million Instagram followers and a trove of inspiring posts which suggest that the splendor may have been worth it. The Bureau of Prisons shows that Abbas is currently being held in an administrative security prison in Chicago.
Forbes, for some reason, notes that The Billionaire Gucci Master never made their billionaires list.
In a Facebook post on the operation dubbed “Fox Hunt 2,” Dubai police said that they arrested and “extradited” Abbas and alleged co-conspirator Olalekan Jacob Ponle, aka mrwoodberry on Instagram (similar feed, fewer followers), while they were sleeping. Authorities in Dubai claimed that six SWAT teams seized $US40.9 ($59) million in cash, 13 luxury vehicles, “addresses of 1,926,400 victims,” and found evidence of a planned $US435 ($623) million heist “on a global scale.”
A dramatic video from the Dubai Police:
The attorney for Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, told the BBC that the FBI “kidnapped” his client from Dubai, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S.
“There was no extradition, there were no legal steps taken, there were no court documents filed, it was simply a call to the FBI. He is not a citizen of the United States, the US had absolutely no authority to take him,” his lawyer said.
In a press release, the U.S. Department of Justice avoided the word “extradited,” saying that Abbas “arrived in Chicago…after being expelled” from the UAE.
In a criminal complaint, the FBI says that it gathered evidence from texts and Snapchat messages between Abbas and alleged conspirators, uncovering proof of a BEC (Business Email Compromise) scheme — typically involving hacking a business email account to instruct personnel or clients to wire money — that defrauded a New York-based law firm’s client of $US922,857.76 ($1,321,994), some of which Abbas allegedly laundered in Los Angeles. Another alleged scheme stole 13 million euros from a “foreign financial institution,” which isn’t named, but news reports show that the Bank of Valletta lost that amount from hackers on the same day an accused conspirator allegedly sent Abbas the message: “Look it hit the news.” A third alleged plot targeted an “English Premier League football club” for a total of $US113 ($162) million.
The FBI then concluded from Hushpuppi’s Instagram posts that Hushpuppi had amassed “substantial wealth.” It continues:
For example, on June 6, 2020, ABBAS posted a photograph of a white Rolls Royce Cullinan that included the hashtag “#AllMine.” On February 27, 2019, ABBAS posted a photograph of himself in front of two vehicles, one of which he described as his new Rolls Royce Wraith. Based on review of publicly available pricing information, the starting price for each of these vehicles is approximately $US330,000 ($472,725).
More than two dozen images showed ABBAS in front of, on top of, or inside other luxury vehicles, including multiple models of Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes, and Rolls Royce.
The FBI matched his Instagram registration email and phone number with financial transactions, and they corroborated his identity with birthday posts.
Hushpuppi’s lawyer told the BBC that the riches came legitimately from Instagram and then admitted that he’s “not ‘100% familiar’” with how social media works but that he’s aware that “that’s how people make money today.”
Abbas faces charges for alleged money laundering in the U.S. and faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.