The U.S. Department of Justice said it has charged Ray Hushpuppi for laundering ‘Millions of Dollars from Cybercrime Schemes’.
The DOJ said in a statement that:
A Dubai resident who flaunted his extravagant lifestyle on social media has arrived in the United States to face criminal charges alleging he conspired 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.
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, 37, a.k.a. “Ray Hushpuppi” and “Hush,” a Nigerian national, arrived in Chicago Thursday evening after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Abbas made his initial U.S. court appearance this morning in Chicago, and he is expected to be transferred to Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
Abbas was arrested last month by UAE law enforcement officials. FBI special agents earlier this week obtained custody of Abbas and brought him to the United States to face a charge of conspiring to engage in money laundering that is alleged in a criminal complaint filed on June 25 by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Abbas maintains social media accounts that frequently showed him in designer clothes, wearing expensive watches, and posing in or with luxury cars and charter jets. “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,” according to the affidavit.
The affidavit describes 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,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “While this arrest has effectively taken a major alleged BEC player offline, BEC scams represent the most financially costly type of scheme reported to the FBI. I urge anyone who transfers funds personally or on behalf of a company to educate themselves about BEC so they can identify this insidious scheme before losing sizable amounts of money.”
“This was a challenging case, one that spanned international boundaries, traditional financial systems and the digital sphere,” said Jesse Baker, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Los Angles Field Office. “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.”
The affidavit alleges that Abbas and others committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019. Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators.
The affidavit also alleges that Abbas conspired to launder funds stolen in a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution in February 2019, in which the stolen money was sent to bank accounts around the world. Abbas allegedly provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe that Abbas anticipated each would receive €5 million (about $5.6 million) of the fraudulently obtained funds.
Abbas and others further conspired 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, the complaint alleges.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, Abbas would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
The FBI led the investigation of Abbas, and the United States Secret Service was also involved and provided substantial assistance. The FBI further thanks the government of the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai Police Department for their substantial assistance,” the statement said.
Yesterday, Dubai Police said it has extradited Hushpuppi and Woodberry to the United States of America.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, Dubai police said:
“The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Christopher Wray has praised the exceptional efforts exerted by the United Arab Emirate, represented by the Dubai Police General HQ, in combating transnational organised cybercrime including the recent arrest of Raymond Igbalode Abbas, known as “Hushpuppi” and Olalekan Jacob Ponle aka “Woodberry” who were taken down in operation “Fox Hunt 2”.”
“Mr Wray also extended his appreciations to Dubai Police for their cooperation in extraditing the wanted criminals, who committed money-laundering and multiple cybercrimes, to the United States.”
“Recently, the Dubai Police has arrested the two wanted fraudsters, “Hushpuppi” and “Woodberry” along with ten African cybercriminals in a special operation dubbed “Fox Hunt 2”.
“The operation took down the suspects for committing crimes outside the UAE, including money-laundering, cyber fraud, hacking, criminal impersonating, scamming individuals, banking fraud and identity theft.”
“The suspects were caught in a series of synchronised raids by six SWAT teams from Dubai Police who foiled the gang’s bid to deceive many people from around the world and steal their money.”
“The director of Dubai CID, Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf said the raid resulted in confiscating incriminating documents of a planned fraud on a global scale worth AED 1.6 billion ($ 435 million).”
“The team also seized more than AED 150 million ($40.9 million) in cash, 13 luxury cars with an estimated value of AED 25 million ($6.8 million) obtained from fraud crimes, and confiscated 21 computer devices, 47 smartphones, 15 memory sticks, five hard disks containing 119,580 fraud files as well as addresses of 1,926,400 victims”
After conducting further investigations and analysing confiscated electronic devices, Dubai Police investigators uncovered sensitive information mined by the suspects on individuals and companies overseas including bank accounts and fake credit cards as well as documents and files condemning the gangs’ illegal activities,” the statement said.
Last month, we reported that Huspuppi and Woodberry transferred to the U.S. said all Hushpuppi’s cars, property and valuable belongings were sealed with warrants secured by the Dubai law enforcement agencies.
However, Dubai Police did not confirm the arrest of Hushpuppi until two weeks ago in a viral video shared on its Twitter page.
The video was titled: ” @DubaiPoliceHQ takedown “Hushpuppi”, “Woodberry”, ten international cybercriminals in a special operation dubbed “Fox Hunt 2” was released on the official Twitter page of Dubai Police.
“A video circulated online by Dubai authorities said officers confiscated 21 computers, 47 mobile phones, 15 memory sticks and five hard disks containing 119,580 in alleged fraud files.”
“A total of 1,926,400 victims were said to have been targeted by the syndicate in a scheme that spanned several months.”
“13 luxury cars estimated to be worth over 25 million dirhams (N2.6 billion) were also seized from the gang,” the statement said.
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) June 25, 2020
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) June 25, 2020