Social media is a wonderful thing. However, if you are a Nigerian fraudster using Instagram and other platforms to show off your wealth, you really should be a little more careful.
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, “hushpuppi” or just “hush” to his 2.4 million followers on Instagram, and Olalekan Jacob Ponle – otherwise known as “mrwoodbery’ – gave themselves a little too much unwelcome publicity, and were subsequently arrested by Dubai Police on various charges of cybercrimes including fraud and money laundering.
Police in Dubai gave a list of the assets they recovered, believed to have been some of the pair’s ill-gotten gains, and it reads as follows: $40m (£32m) in cash, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8m, 21 computers, 47 smartphones and the addresses of nearly two million alleged victims.
The pair had posted pictures posing with cars such as a Lamborghini and a Rolls-Royce, while boasting of their jet-setting lifestyles. Unfortunately for them, this prompted the authorities to ask just where they were getting their wealth from.
Business Email Compromise Scheme
The pair have been extradited to the USA where they await charges and trial. They stand accused of being involved in a fraudulent activity known as a ‘Business Email Compromise’ (BEC) scheme. This involves impersonating real employees of businesses – in this case in the USA – to learn about them and gain information on their activities. The upshot is they can infiltrate the genuine person’s world and convince other parties they are the real thing, and direct funds that may be legitimately be transferring into the scammer’s accounts.
In this case, the numbers are quite astonishing. Mr Ponle is accused of illegally obtaining funds by wire transfer from a Chicago company to the tune of $15.2million. This is just one victim, and there are companies in other US cities he is said to have successfully conned. Mr Abbas is believed to have obtained – and again, this is just one example among many – some $14.7million from a financial institution using the same methods. He is also said to have been involved in a scam that targeted an English Premier League football team to the tune of $124million.
The pair were under suspicion thanks to the many posts on Instagram, Snapchat and other media platforms showing them with luxury cars and apartments, boasting of their designer clothing and opulent lifestyles. A breakthrough came when, in April 2020, Abbas renewed the lease on his apartment in Dubai, and used his real name and phone number.
The sheer scale of the pair’s fraudulent activity is clearly colossal, and while they remain innocent until proven guilty, we await the charges in full. The lesson to be learned here is if you have no clear source of legitimate income, don’t brag openly about your ‘bespoke black badge Rolls-Royce Wraith’ as it only raises suspicion.