The United States Attorney General’s office has debunked the news making the rounds about fresh allegations of $400,000 fraud allegedly perpetrated from detention by Abbas Ramon, also known as Hushpuppi.
Thom Mrozek, Director of Media Relations, United States Attorney’s Office (Los Angeles), distanced both the Attorney General’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from the fresh allegations against the Instagram celebrity. The American official provided the clarification in his response to an enquiry sent to him by PREMIUM TIMES early Thursday.
Mr. Mrozek, who got our reporter’s initial email at about 7 a.m. Los Angeles time, promised to carry out an investigation after this newspaper expressed concerns about the authenticity of the documents in circulation on the Internet.
Many major Nigerian media platforms on Thursday published reports of a fresh court filing by an agent of the FBI, Andrew Innocenti, which purportedly detailed fresh fraud allegations against Mr. Abbas.
The content of the document, which claims to have “new information involving Abbas”, had what appeared scintillating investigative details that ended up deceiving many reputable news platforms.
It purportedly accused the former Instagram celebrity of committing fresh credit card fraud from detention, abusing the opportunity given to all prison inmates in the U.S. for “access to phone calls, the Internet and computers with limited and regulated usage.”
“Recorded international activities (reviewed pursuant to federal search warrant issued in this district) of Abbas in the US Federal correctional facility, Central District of California, reflect that Abbas purchased Economic Impact Payment (EIP) debit cards and laundered the proceeds totaling over $400,000,” the document added.
The document also paraded names like Mr. Innocenti’s and that of a magistrate-judge of a District Court of Central California, Rozella A. Oliver, which featured in documents previously filed in Hushpuppi’s pending case.
Hushpuppi, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a money laundering charge at the same court, is awaiting sentencing slated for July 11.
After an extensive review of the document, this newspaper doubted its authenticity. The document lacked the usual headings that usually provide basic details such as the name of the court where the document is filed, the parties, the suit number, and the title of the filing.
Our observation about the lack of clarity and the incompleteness of the document led PREMIUM TIMES to reach out to relevant contacts for confirmation.
The office of the lawyer to Mr. Abass denied knowledge of the filing of the document when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday. The document was also not found in the court’s docket accessed through online channels by this newspaper.
Responding to an e-mail enquiry by this newspaper, Mr. Mrozek, the spokesperson for the U.S. attorney general’s office in Los Angeles, described the document in circulation as fake.
Mr. Mrozek, after extensive investigation within the U.S. justice system, quoted both Mr. Innocenti and the attorney-general’s office as denying the document.
“After looking at the document excerpted in recent media accounts, the document appears to have been fabricated,” he stated.
The official added: “The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, which filed the case against Mr. Abbas, has not filed any such document.
“We have checked with the FBI agent who supposedly authored the document, and he confirms it is a fake.”
In the allegations levelled against Mr. Abbas in the viral document, the FBI purportedly accused him of participating in the purchase of Economic Impact Payment (EIP) debit card fraudulently obtained from compromised U.S. citizens.
The document described EIP as stimulus checks or “recovery rebates” as a key provision of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Impact Security (CARES) Act legislation that Congress passed to help reduce the financial burden on citizens.
It noted that inmates in correctional facilities across the U.S. are allowed certain activities including access to phone calls, the Internet, and computers with limited and regulated usage.
It added that inmates have constitutional rights to their privacy and that phone calls from correctional facilities by inmates are not recorded except when necessary and a warrant is obtained for this purpose.
Inmates’ internet activities are not logged or recorded except when necessary, the document added.
It also stated: ”Between January 28, 2022, and March 4, 2022, security officers at US federal correctional facility, Central District of California, observed more frequent usage of the Internet by Abbas. With the knowledge that the crimes Abbas committed which he is being charged for are all Internet-related crimes, security officers were concerned and informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“On March 7, we obtained a federal search warrant issued by Central District of California to monitor and record Abbas intent activities.”
It added that the FBI agent claimed to have monitored Mr. Abbas’ internet activities between March 7 and March 13. It claimed Mr. Abbas spent an average of 55 minutes on the Internet during each session.
It identified one AJ as Hushpuppi’s accomplice and promised to unearth the person’s identity.
Hushpuppi had in July last year signed a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors alleged that no later than on or about January 18, 2019, through on or about June 9, 2020, Hushpuppi “knowingly combined, agreed, and conspired with multiple other persons (“co-conspirators”) to conduct financial transactions into, within, and outside the United States involving property that represented the proceeds of wire fraud.”
He allegedly targeted multiple victims and laundered and/or attempted to launder funds fraudulently obtained, and attempted to be fraudulently obtained, through bank cyber-heists, business email compromise (BEC) frauds, and other fraud schemes.
In some BEC schemes involving victim companies in the United Kingdom, Mr. Abass was said to have with one co-conspirator discussed on May 12, 2019, how they anticipated fraudulent payments of approximately £6 million per week.
“Once a victim deposited funds into a bank account, defendant would coordinate with other coconspirators to obtain or move the funds, and then to further launder the funds,” the U.S. government said.
In addition to admitting the defendant’s involvement in the schemes intending to defraud the victims listed above, Mr. Abass was also said to have admitted involvement in a scheme to defraud a victim company in Qatar that was building an international school (the Qatari Victim Company) and the owner of that company.
He was also said to have, in December 2019, began conspiring with a co-conspirator to defraud the owner of the Qatari company “who was seeking a lender to invest $15,000,000 in a project to build an international school”.
In a separate case, the U.S. government accused a suspended deputy commissioner of police, Abba Kyari, of aiding part of the fraud perpetrated by Hushpuppi.
Mr. Kyari and others have been charged by the U.S. government. He is awaiting extradition for his trial to start in the U.S.
Source: Source: Premium Times