Nigerian National Brought to U.S. to Face Charges of Conspiring to Launder Hundreds of Millions of Dollars from Cybercrime Schemes

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.


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.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anil J. Antony and Joseph B. Woodring of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this matter.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (July 2020) Nigerian National Brought to U.S. to Face Charges of Conspiring to Launder Hundreds of Millions of Dollars from Cybercrime Schemes

(Update) $50,000 reward offered for information for homicide of Postal Employee

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) who shot and killed a USPS employee.


(Update 04/29/2020) A 21-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the death of an Indianapolis mail carrier.

United States Postal Inspectors, IMPD detectives and FBI Special Agents arrested Tony Cushingberry, 21, Tuesday evening for his involvement in the death of Angela Summers, 45.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) who shot and killed a USPS employee.

The USPS employee was shot and killed at approximately 4:00 pm on April 27, 2020, at the 400 block of North Denny St, Indianapolis, Indiana.

According to Fox59:

Officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department found a woman with at least one gunshot wound.

She was “awake and talking.”

Medics transported the woman to a local hospital, where she later died.

The Marion County Coroner’s Office identified the woman as 45-year-old Angela Summers. The USPS confirmed she was one of its employees.

Melissa Hardy is having a hard time processing what happened to her friend, Angela Summers. They have been friends for 15 years.

“There was a neighborhood app that had said it was a female and I knew it was close to where she carried and my heart just sank,” Hardy said.

TAKE NO ACTION TO APPREHEND THIS PERSON YOURSELF

If you have any information about this incident, please contact: Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS, all information will be kept strictly confidential.

USPIS.gov (April 2020) Seeking Information for Homicide of Postal Employee

2019 Internet Crime Report Released

Internet-enabled crimes and scams show no signs of letting up, according to data released by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in its 2019 Internet Crime Report.


Data Reflects an Evolving Threat and the Importance of Reporting

Internet-enabled crimes and scams show no signs of letting up, according to data released by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in its 2019 Internet Crime Report. The last calendar year saw both the highest number of complaints and the highest dollar losses reported since the center was established in May 2000.

IC3 received 467,361 complaints in 2019—an average of nearly 1,300 every day—and recorded more than $3.5 billion in losses to individual and business victims. The most frequently reported complaints were phishing and similar ploys, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromiseromance or confidence fraud, and spoofing, or mimicking the account of a person or vendor known to the victim to gather personal or financial information.

Donna Gregory, the chief of IC3, said that in 2019 the center didn’t see an uptick in new types of fraud but rather saw criminals deploying new tactics and techniques to carry out existing scams.

“Criminals are getting so sophisticated,” Gregory said. “It is getting harder and harder for victims to spot the red flags and tell real from fake.”

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While email is still a common entry point, frauds are also beginning on text messages—a crime called smishing—or even fake websites—a tactic called pharming.

“You may get a text message that appears to be your bank asking you to verify information on your account,” said Gregory. “Or you may even search a service online and inadvertently end up on a fraudulent site that gathers your bank or credit card information.”

Individuals need to be extremely skeptical and double check everything, Gregory emphasized. “In the same way your bank and online accounts have started to require two-factor authentication—apply that to your life,” she said. “Verify requests in person or by phone, double check web and email addresses, and don’t follow the links provided in any messages.”

Shifts in Business Email Compromise

Business email compromise (BEC), or email account compromise, has been a major concern for years. In 2019, IC3 recorded 23,775 complaints about BEC, which resulted in more than $1.7 billion in losses.

These scams typically involve a criminal spoofing or mimicking a legitimate email address. For example, an individual will receive a message that appears to be from an executive within their company or a business with which an individual has a relationship. The email will request a payment, wire transfer, or gift card purchase that seems legitimate but actually funnels money directly to a criminal.

In the last year, IC3 reported seeing an increase in the number of BEC complaints related to the diversion of payroll funds. “In this type of scheme, a company’s human resources or payroll department receives an email appearing to be from an employee requesting to update their direct deposit information for the current pay period,” the report said. The change instead routes an employee’s paycheck to a criminal.

The Importance of Reporting

“Information reported to the IC3 plays a vital role in the FBI’s ability to understand our cyber adversaries and their motives, which, in turn, helps us to impose risks and consequences on those who break our laws and threaten our national security,” said Matt Gorham, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division. “It is through these efforts we hope to build a safer and more secure cyber landscape.” Gorham encourages everyone to use IC3 and reach out to their local field office to report malicious activity. 

Rapid reporting can help law enforcement stop fraudulent transactions before a victim loses the money for good. The FBI’s Recovery Asset Team was created to streamline communication with financial institutions and FBI field offices and is continuing to build on its success. The team successfully recovered more than $300 million for victims in 2019.

Besides stressing vigilance on the part of every connected citizen, the IC3’s Donna Gregory also stressed the importance of victims providing as much information as possible when they come to IC3. Victims should include every piece of information they have—any email addresses, account information they were given, phone numbers scammers called from, and other details. The more information IC3 can gather, the more it helps combat the criminals.

In 2019, the Recovery Asset Team was paired with the Money Mule Team under the IC3’s Recovery and Investigative Development Team. This effort brings together law enforcement and financial institutions to use the data provided in IC3 complaints to gain a better view of the networks and methods of cyber fraudsters and identify the perpetrators.

The new effort allowed IC3 to aggregate more than three years of reports to help build a case against an active group of criminals who were responsible for damaging crimes that ranged from cryptocurrency theft to online extortion. The ensuing investigation by the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office resulted in the arrest of three people.

Read the full 2019 Internet Crime Report.

To stay up to date on common online scams and frauds or report a crime, visit ic3.gov.

FBI.gov (February, 2020) 2019 Internet Crime Report Released