When you brag about your lavish lifestyle and near-infinite wealth on the internet, eventually someone is going to start looking into your finances. That’s what happened to Raymond “Hushpuppi” Abbas, an Instagrammer with 2.4 million followers.
Hushpuppi posted endless photos of himself with his collection of luxury vehicles, which include multiple Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. The Nigerian allegedly started building his wealth by trading second-hand clothing before becoming a property developer.
The appeal of his tale–rags to riches, or in this case, second-hand clothes to Louis Vuitton–is undeniable. A certain class of influencer is all about flaunting their wealth. Selfies with expensive cars, lavish houses, designer clothes–the audience eats it up.
However, that wealth was a front to attract victims. The 38-year-old’s apparent lifestyle of private jets and luxury vehicles was all part of a scam that stole upwards of $430 million.
In a joint operation called “Fox Hunt 2” with the FBI, Interpol, and the Dubai police, law enforcement officers detained Abbas and confiscated almost $50 million in cash from his hotel room. The cash was stuffed into suitcases, which is not at all suspicious.
12 additional conspirators were arrested in the operation. Officers report that they found almost 2 million email addresses from victims of the international scam. Police seized dozens of computers and mobile devices that were used to store the stolen identity information.
How did they do it? The scam was based on creating fake websites that mimicked legitimate companies. Abbas and his ring of scammers would allegedly steal credit card information and then funnel the stolen funds through money laundering channels.
“After verifying available information, the team [tracked] the gang including ‘Hushpuppi,’ who celebrated his wealth via social media…under a businessman facade, in an attempt to lure victims from all over the world,” said Dubai police criminal investigation director Jamal Salem Al Jallaf.
“The suspects also targeted victims overseas by creating fake websites for well-known companies and banks in a bid to steal victims’ credit card information and then launder the stolen money.”
Abbas will reportedly be extradited to his home country of Nigeria. He faces charges in the United States and Europe, too. And as for his collection of wildly expensive cars? They’ll probably be seized and auctioned off by the government.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari wants the world to know that not all Nigerians are scammers, despite the cliché. “The action of a single Nigerian is not the action of all Nigerians . . . who are hardworking and honest people. We should not be tagged ‘fraudulent people’ for the misdeeds of a few,” he told the Times.
For this scammer, at least, Abbas has reached the end of the road.