The FBI used an Instagram star's flamboyant social media posts as evidence to charge him with financial crimes

mjankowicz@businessinsider.com (Mia Jankowicz)
A cropped image from hushpuppi's Instagram feed.
A cropped image from hushpuppi's Instagram feed.

hushpuppi/Instagram

  • Instagram star hushpuppi has been charged with conspiracy to commit a massive money laundering scheme by the Department of Justice.

  • Investigators noted the "substantial wealth" on display on hushpuppi's account, where he poses with supercars, shopping bags and in luxury locations.

  • Documents show that investigators requested evidence from social media platforms and used it to establish the charges against him.

  • Apple, Instagram and Snapchat records are all detailed at length in an FBI affidavit for the case, all of which helped investigators confirm hushpuppi's identity and address.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A flamboyant Nigerian Instagram star facing criminal charges for an alleged massive conspiracy to launder hundreds of millions of dollars may have been pinned down by his own social media flexing.

Prosecutors say "Ray Hushpuppi" and co-conspirators planned to launder at least $138 million from online heists and "business email compromise" (BEC) schemes, as Insider's Ellen Cranley previously reported

Prosecutors believe Ray Hushpuppi is really 37-year-old Ramon Olorunwa Abbas. They connected him to Snapchat and Instagram handles using the name "hushpuppi" numerous times in FBI documents relating to the case, helping establish the case gainst him.

hushpuppi's Instagram account, which is followed by 2.4 million people, is filled with hundreds of pictures of Abbas posing with luxury cars, designer clothes and private jets. 

In an affidavit seen and reproduced by BBC's Nigeria-based Pidgin service, FBI Special Agent Andrew Innocenti described in detail how hushpuppi was pictured "in designer clothing and shoes, posing on or in luxury vehicles, wearing high-end watches, or possessing other luxury items."

It signaled "substantial wealth," Innocenti said.

The posts also helped him confirm hushpuppi's true identity, his whereabouts, and to connect him to conversations discussing the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Even birthday posts were mentioned. One hushpuppi post on October 12 shows a birthday cake decorated with the Fendi logo and a model of a man —likely hushpuppi himself — surrounded by tiny shopping bags. 

"Thank you all so much for the love you showed me yesterday till now," was hushpuppi's comment accompanying the post, suggesting his birthday was the 11th.

The date of October 11 matches the date of birth given on a visa application filed by Abbas in 2012, investigators noted, alongside many other notes confirming his identity.

Snapchat, Instagram, and Apple all provided records for the investigation. The connections between chat records, names as they appear in phone contacts books, and phone numbers and email addresses all suggested that Abbas sent the messages. They also provided an address in Dubai.

Although hushpuppi's profile describes him as a real estate developer, the FBI noted another kind of "house" being discussed.

Innocenti said that, in his experience, subjects from Nigeria sometimes use the word "house" to describe a bank account used to receive fraud money. He said that Abbas and alleged co-conspirators used the word multiple times in their chats. 

Abbas was extradited from Dubai last month to the US, where he had his first court appearance in Chicago on July 3 and the case is expected to continue in Los Angeles in the coming weeks, according to the criminal complaint

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