He made a name for himself on Instagram as Hushpuppi, the influencer. He flaunted his overly luxurious and wealthy lifestyle, thus amassing about 2 million followers on the app who looked to him as a source of inspiration. Abbas’ Instagram page was filled with images and films of his lavish spending on individual cars, watches, and designer clothes from luxury fashion houses like Gucci, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton. He’d frequently board helicopters and rub shoulders with celebrities, footballers, and Nigerian politicians.
Behind closed doors, Hushpuppi’s riches were sourced through illegal means. Abbas was well known in his hometown Oworonshoki as a “Yahoo Boy,” which is how he began his career in fraud. A Yahoo boy is a young man who carries out cyber heists on unsuspecting victims. The term gets its name from the free email hosting company Yahoo, the platform where fraudsters conduct their business. From the poor coastal area that is Oworonshoki, Hushpuppi set his sights overseas, moved to Malaysia in 2014, and then moved to Dubai in 2017. The level of his work upgraded tremendously. He began laundering large sums of money obtained from a significant bank in Malta.
Hushpuppi’s arrest happened in June 2020 after he pleaded guilty to money laundering in April. He was arrested along with 11 others in six simultaneous raids the night his Palazzo Versace apartment was raided as part of an operation codenamed Fox Hunt 2. Detectives seized more than 150 million dirhams (about $40 million) in cash, 13 luxury cars worth 25 million dirhams ($7 million), 21 laptops, 47 smartphones, 15 storage devices, and an external hard drive, five machines, 800,000 emails, and luggage bags full of cash.
A Los Angeles judge also ordered two fraud victims to pay compensation of $1,732,841. Court documents filed in California show that Hushpuppi’s crimes cost victims nearly $24 million. Before his arrest, Abbas assumed the identity of a Wells Fargo New York banker named “Malik” to defraud a Qatari businessman out of a $15 million loan meant to build a school in the Gulf state. However, he had already conned him out of millions months prior.
Abbas allegedly conspired with Abdulrahman Imraan Juma, a.k.a. “Abdul,” 28, from Kenya, and Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, 40, of Nigeria.
“Mr. Abbas, among the most high-profile money launderers in the world, has admitted to his significant role in perpetrating global BEC fraud, a scheme currently plaguing Americans,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office in a statement from California’s Department of Justice. “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.”
Punchng.com reports that Hushpuppi is still being held in the Metropolitan Detention Centre, from where he would be moved to a federal prison in the U.S. “The specific facility will be determined by the U. S. Bureau of Prisons, which administers those facilities and has the exclusive authority to determine where a prisoner will be housed,” the Director of Media Relations, United States Attorney’s Office, Thom Mrozek, states.