Hushpuppi’s Birthday Post Helped Track Him Down

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Hushpuppi's Birthday Post Helped Track Him Down

Ramon Abbas flaunted a lavish lifestyle of private jets, designer clothes and luxury cars.

To his 2.5 million Instagram followers, he went by Ray Hushpuppi, a man who boarded helicopters from his Dubai waterfront apartment and walked around with shopping bags from Gucci, Versace and Fendi.

On social media, where he posted a video of himself tossing wads of cash like confetti, he told his followers he was a real estate developer. But a federal affidavit alleged his extravagant lifestyle was financed through hacking schemes that stole millions of dollars from major companies in the United States and Europe.

His flamboyant posts left a digital trail of evidence that investigators used to link him to the crimes, the affidavit shows.

Last month, United Arab Emirates investigators swooped into his Dubai apartment, arrested him and handed him over to FBI agents, who flew him to Chicago on July 2, federal officials said.

In the coming weeks, he’ll be transferred to Los Angeles — where the affidavit was filed — to face accusations of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through cyber crime schemes.

The Nigerian national lived at the exclusive Palazzo Versace in Dubai, and led a global network that used computer intrusions, business email compromise schemes and money laundering to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from companies, federal prosecutors allege.

He worked with multiple co-conspirators and was arrested along with 11 others. Investigators seized nearly $41 million, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8 million, and phone and computer evidence, Dubai Police said in a statement. They uncovered email addresses of nearly 2 million possible victims on phones, computers and hard drives, Dubai authorities said.

“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,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.

Abbas’ attorney, Gal Pissetzky, declined to get into details on how his client earns his money. But what he does for a living is going to be “one of the main points of contention here.

Pissetzky called his client’s arrest a kidnapping, saying Dubai handed him to the United States with “no legal proceedings whatsoever.” Abbas has not been formally indicted, and the government has 30 days to indict him, his attorney said Thursday.

Abbas made no secret of his opulent lifestyle and remarkable wealth. On Snapchat, he called himself the “Billionaire Gucci Master.”

“Started out my day having sushi down at Nobu in Monte Carlo, Monaco, then decided to book a helicopter to have … facials at the Christian Dior spa in Paris then ended my day having champagne in Gucci,” he posted on Instagram.

Photos of him displaying multiple models of Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes and Rolls Royce cars included the hashtag #AllMine. Others show him rubbing elbows with international sports stars and other celebrities.

In the affidavit, federal officials detailed how his social media accounts provided a treasure trove of information to confirm his identity. His Instagram, for example, had an email and phone number saved for account security purposes. Federal officials got that information and linked that email and phone number to financial transactions and transfers with people the FBI believed were his co-conspirators.

“The email account … also contained emails with attachments relating to wire transfers in large dollar values,” the affidavit said.

His Apple and Snapchat records also provided information that helped investigators confirm his identity, address and communications with other suspects. Even his Instagram birthday celebration photos provided key information.

One post displayed a birthday cake topped with a Fendi logo and a miniature image of him surrounded by tiny shopping bags. Investigators used that post to verify his date of birth on a previous US visa application.

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