Instagram influencer Hushpuppi’s jet-setting lifestyle was nothing but a fraud. That’s what a combined task force from the FBI, Interpol, and Dubai police set out to uncover this week.
Raymond Abbas, the man behind the popular Instagram account, was caught with suitcases full of cash and millions of stolen email addresses.
Who Is Hushpuppi?
The 38-year-old Instagram star allegedly began his career trading secondhand clothes in Lagos, Nigeria. He claimed to have built his business into a property empire that netted him lots of cash. Enough, in fact, to buy a mansion, a fleet of luxury cars, and a wardrobe full of Louis Vuitton.
But all was not as it seemed. Reports on Operation Fox Hunt 2, the code name for the Abbas takedown in Dubai this week, suggests that his luxurious lifestyle was just bait for the ‘gram. Abbas actually made his money from scam websites that tricked people out of their personal information and banking details.
According to the Independent, Abbas as at the head of a criminal ring that committed “money-laundering, cyber fraud, hacking, and scamming.” Abbas and co. allegedly stole upwards of $430 million from victims spanning the globe.
About 10% of that take was discovered stuffed into suitcases when he was arrested. Law enforcement in Dubai also seized over a dozen luxury cars. The vehicles include multiple Rolls-Royces, Ferraris, Bugattis, and more.
How the Scam Worked
“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.”
Most galling is the fact that Abbas’s Intragram is littered with encouragement for his followers. It includes comments about achieving their dreams through hard work–just like he did. The rags-to-riches fantasy Abbas sold through his social media was just another way to trap and exploit people.
“I post a few of these things so that someone can see my page someday and decide not to give up,” Abbas once captioned a post.
Turns out maybe you can’t earn half a billion dollars through hard work and a positive attitude. When law enforcement caught up with him in Dubai, they found dozens of computers, phones, and hard drives. They were filled with illegally obtained email addresses and other personal information from victims.
BBC News reports that Abbas and his ring of fraudsters plan to plead guilty to the charges against them.