Fresh charges have been slammed on infamous internet fraudster Ramon ‘Hushpuppi’ Abbas by United States prosecutors, accusing him of committing fraud and laundering over $400,000 while in prison.
On Wednesday, US prosecutors presented documents before the U.S. District Court of California with fresh evidence indicating Mr Abbas committed fraud and money laundering at the U.S Federal correctional facility.
The documents said Mr Abass was involved in the purchase and laundering of Economic Impact Payment debit cards obtained from stolen data of U.S. citizens and residents.
According to prosecutors, inmates are allowed access to phone calls, video calls, the internet, exempt from being monitored to protect their rights to privacy. However, between January 28 and March 4, security officers at the correctional facility observed that Mr Abbas had gone beyond allowed internet use.
In light of the internet-based crimes Mr Abbas was tried for, a warrant to record his activities was obtained and his activities were recorded for a week.
It was found that Mr Abbas had purchased 58 EIP debit cards from an underground cybercriminal marketplace StimulusCard, worth $429,800.
The Economic Impact Payments are financial support offered by the U.S. government to U.S residents according to the CARES Act.
Mr Abass, whose sentencing was postponed to July, pleaded guilty to multimillion-dollar fraud charges as part of a plea bargain he entered with the U.S. authorities.
The 37-year-old had been arrested in Dubai in June 2020 and extradited to the U.S. where he has been facing charges of corruption in Central California.
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The statement partly read, “RAMON OLORUNWA ABBAS is a Nigerian national previously living in the United Arab Emirates (the “U.A.E.”) but currently incarcerated in the US Federal correctional facility, Central District of California, on charges of money laundering. The FBI’s investigation has revealed that ABBAS, while in a US Federal correctional facility, participated in the purchase of Economic Impact Payment debit cards fraudulently obtained from compromised data of US citizens.
“Economic Impact Payments —commonly referred to as “stimulus checks” or “recovery rebates”— are a key provision of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act legislation that Congress passed to help reduce the financial burden on citizens and residents across the United States. Economic Impact Payments are non-taxable income that does not need to be paid back. Economic Impact Payments debit cards are a means of disbursement of payments. Economic Impact Payments debit cards, commonly called EIP cards, are issued on the VISA network by Meta Bank, South Dakota, US.
“This affidavit presents new information involving ABBAS which supports Affidavit 1 of Case No 2:20-mj-02992. Recorded internet activities (reviewed pursuant to a 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 Payments debit cards and laundered the proceeds totaling over $400,000.
“Payments debit cards daily for the period we recorded him. He purchased a total of 58 Economic Impact Payments debit cards in this period, with a total value of $429,800.
19 Of the 58 Economic Impact Payments debit cards, ABBAS chose the virtual card option for 36 EIP cards and he selected the plastic physical card option for 22 EIP cards.
“ABBAS was in constant communication with one AJ. ABBAS sent all the cards he bought from stimuluscard.com to AJ. ABBAS gave instructions to AJ on what to shop online. He gave instructions on what to do with the purchased items. ABBAS also gave instructions on cash withdrawal from ATMs with the plastic cards.
“One of the communications between ABBAS and AJ were as follows ABBAS: “Guy hw fr? You don receive the 5 new EIP cards?” AJ: “Yes bro” ABBAS: “Ok. Try pull out all the funds today.” AJ: “Fin on it already. Done 2 already.” ABBAS: “Nice one. What about the online purchase for yesterday? I say make you focus on iPhones 13 and PS5. Those ones dey very easy to resell.” AJ: “Yes. I finished that last night. Emptied the cards on Amazon. Iphones and PS5. I already received the 6 Macbook Air and 3 iPad Pro I ordered 3 days ago. My guys came pick them up this looming.” ABBAS: “Aiit. I go send you more EIP cards today.” After this conversation, ABBAS went ahead to buy more Economic Impact.”
Recall that, Hushpuppi is facing criminal charges in the United States for conspiracy to launder money obtained from business email compromise frauds and other scams, including schemes that defrauded a US law firm of about $40 million, illegally transferred $14.7 million from a foreign financial institution, and targeted to steal $124 million from an English football club until his arrest by the Dubai Police in June 2020 and his extradition to the United States.