Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained. Birthdays were always a moment for reflection for Ramon Abbas, the Instagram influencer known as Ray Hushpuppi, @hushpuppi, Hush, or the Billionaire Gucci Master. Reflection and extravagance—but the excess was Hushpuppi’s trademark, a year-round affair, a way of life. On his 37th birthday, October 11, 2019, he was staying in a penthouse suite at the Palazzo Versace Dubai, complete with a private pool and hot tub on his lanai. On Instagram, where he had over 2 million followers, a typical @hushpuppi picture showed Abbas smiling in front of one of his Ferraris or Rolls-Royces, kicking back in his seat on a private plane, or entering a designer boutique with a passel of rope-handled bags—#Hermes, #Fendi, #LouisVuitton. His style was always impeccable: he never wore the same clothing twice, and he wore #Gucci most of the time. There is no other way to become the Billionaire Gucci Master.
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How much money Abbas honestly had, Hushpuppis’ Man In The Middle’ Fraud Explained.
Even in 2019, there were questions about how much money Abbas honestly had and how he got it. In Nigeria, where he was born, his Instagram presence had elevated him to the ranks of pop culture’s top names. Hushpuppis’ Man In The Middle’ Fraud Explained. He’d shared social media with pop idols Davido and WizKid and soccer players from English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City. However, speculations about Abbas’s wealth persisted. He was “a Nigerian big guy,” shorthand for an online fraudster, or “Yahoo Boy,” who’d struck it gold and flaunted it in the thriving ecosystem of Nigerian gossip blogs. Abbas rejected the chatter as the jealousy of so many haters, all of whom were dissatisfied with their own lives and wanted to bring down a self-made guy who had left them all behind.
Abbas, a style influencer. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained.
Whatever the reality was, on his 37th birthday, before heading off to a party in his honor in the VIP room at the Dubai Burberry shop, Abbas took a moment to thank his supporters for their support on his journey from hustling child to a global influencer. “As I enter my 30s today, I’d like to celebrate all of you out there,” he posted on Instagram. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained. The caption was posted alongside a photo of Abbas wearing a fashionable blue tracksuit and standing in front of a massive sculpture of a Rolls-Royce hood ornament. “Those of you who I have mostly never met, spoken to, or anything but who has been a great supporter of mine through every crisis up to this point and are still riding for me, I want you to know that I celebrate and thank you today, today is OUR DAY!”
Several celebrity blogs published his gratitude in its entirety. Tammy Abraham, an English striker who had recently made his debut for Chelsea, shared a photo of Hushpuppi with the comment “Happy birthday to my big bro for yesterday” the next day. At the same time, Abbas provided a guided tour of his home to Daddy Freeze, a prominent Nigerian radio personality. (“What I was aiming for with that interview was something like to MTV Cribs,” Freeze previously told me.) They wandered through the penthouse while Abbas showed them his clothes and footwear collections and proceeded down to the garage to see the Rolls and Ferraris as Freeze was shooting. “I have four jacuzzis in this house, a sauna, and my pool,” Abbas explained to the viewers at home. He claimed that the apartment cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars for a year.”
When the couple sat down for dinner
When the couple sat down for dinner, they talked about online trolls, religion, and family. The money came up only after Abbas claimed that he frequently made charity gifts that never appeared on his stream. “I have a pure heart.” “I do a lot of good that not even a lot of social media needs to know about,” he explained. “I get a decent night’s sleep.” When nice things happen to me, I know it’s because I did something good. Not because someone promised me money I didn’t earn or money I don’t deserve.”Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained.
On Instagram, Abbas’ life was a swirl of private aircraft and Greek island junkets.
What does it mean to be deserving of a fortune like Hushpuppi’s? What kind of labor corresponds to the wealth of private aircraft and $5,000 handbags? The Billionaire Gucci Master had answers to these inquiries, but so did the FBI—solutions that would form the basis of the criminal case filed against him in a California federal court, United States of America v. Ramon Olorunwa Abbas.
Abbas had another reason to celebrate just three days after his dinner with Daddy Freeze. According to his and his accused co-federal conspirator’s indictments, on October 15, 2019, a Chase Bank account Abbas controlled in the United States received a wire transfer for $922,857.76. The money was sent by a New York law company and was supposed to be a payment owed to one of its customers, who had refinanced a piece of real estate at Citizens Bank. However, when a firm paralegal, named only as K.C., emailed to check where the wire should be transferred, she received fax instructing her to direct the payment to Chase instead. K.C. called a phone number listed on the fax to confirm the details and, once everything appeared to be in order, he made the transfer.
In reality, nothing made sense, Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained
In reality, nothing made sense. The fax and phone contact had come not from K.C.’s customer but from someone in Abbas’ orbit—possibly Abbas himself—who had inserted himself in the middle of the transaction, according to court filings. The gambit was part of a “business email compromise,” or BEC, campaign, a profitable, varied, and elusive fraud that the government believes Abbas and his co-conspirators have carried out around the world. BEC scams are becoming more widespread and extremely difficult to detect. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained.
More than a third of the funds were moved from the Chase account to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The remainder was transferred to separate bank accounts. On October 17, Abbas allegedly texted a photo of the $396,000 payment to Ghaleb Alaumary, a Canadian American from Toronto who police claim was his collaborator in past BEC-like schemes. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained. According to the government, Alaumary, Abbas, and a loose online confederation of other figures—including North Korean state-sponsored hackers at times—targeted hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts from businesses and banks, including more than $100 million from a single Premier League soccer club.
Alaumary contacted a third party to confirm that the funds had landed in Canada. He messaged Abbas again after the transfer was finalized.
- “What’s up, bro?” Abbas replied.
- “You sent me a confirmation today,” Alaumary remarked.
- “Did the money come in?” Abbas inquired.
- “Of course, for Canada.”
- “Please send me a screenshot.”
Alaumary guaranteed one, Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained
Alaumary guaranteed one. He explained that he was aboard a plane that had just landed and would send the image as soon as he had a strong enough connection. However, no confirmation was received. Instead, the FBI approached Alaumary at the airport and arrested him moments later. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained.
Like the ones Alaumary and Abbas are charged with, successful BEC schemes always appear to be a bit of a magic trick. Phil in accounting—or, in the instance of Abbas, K.C. the paralegal—receives an invoice, logs into a payment system, and sends off what appears to be a typical payment. The money then vanishes as if it had evaporated en way to its intended destination. But, unfortunately, K.C.’s client didn’t detect the money was missing until later in October.
BEC assaults first appeared about a half-dozen years ago, growing year after year until they eclipsed all other forms of internet fraud. According to the FBI, about 20,000 such scams were perpetrated against American firms in 2020 alone, resulting in $1.8 billion in losses, while the diversity of BEC crimes makes totals challenging to determine. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained. Crane Hassold, senior director of threat research at Agari Data Inc. and a former FBI analyst, defines a BEC as “a response-based impersonation assault that’s seeking something of value,” appearing as a genuine firm to deceive people into handing over their money.
Typically begins with someone stealing.
Regardless of its flavor, a BEC fraud typically begins with someone stealing into a company email account, commonly through social engineering techniques such as phishing. At first, the offenders do not steal anything while inside. Instead, they begin silently sending copies of incoming and outgoing emails to themselves. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained. Then they sit and wait. “They observe it for a few weeks or months, searching for information of specific payments that are going out, identifying who their clients are, and looking at communication patterns,” Hassold explains. Finally, they “apply that intelligence to inject themselves into an actual payment that is supposed to be due” when they notice an invoice coming in or out.
The scam can then proceed in one of two ways: If the scammers have gained access to the intended recipient’s email address, they produce an invoice identical to the actual one, swapping in their bank account information, and resend it from the recipient’s email address (often with apologies for the mix-up). On the other hand, if they’ve hacked the sender, they might send a follow-up invoice from a “spoofed” email that appears to match the payee’s at first glance, or even establish an entire firm and website that is one letter off from the genuine one. In either situation, Phil in accounting receives an email that, without further examination, seems exactly like the ones he gets every day.
To the rest of us,
The idea that a corporate employee might send millions of dollars to the wrong bank account may seem preposterous to the rest of us. Hushpuppis Man In The Middle Fraud Explained. “These attacks are so realistic-looking that most people don’t think twice about it,” Hassold said. “Because when you’re dealing with payments like this, you get a lot of these emails every day.” And if it doesn’t raise any red lights, you won’t go up the chain for confirmation. One would think that as the amount of money exchanged grows larger and larger and larger,
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