A Chicago court, on Monday, denied a Nigerian suspected internet fraudster, Ramon Abbas, known online as ‘Hushpuppi’ bail and ruled that he remains in detention till his next trial date later in the year.
Mr Abbas, 37, who was resident in Dubai and known for flaunting extravagant lifestyle on social media, was arrested last month over money laundering allegations and extradited to the U.S on July 3.
An FBI affidavit, alongside a criminal complaint filed in court by the U.S. authorities, alleges that Mr Abbas was part of a network that made “hundreds of millions of dollars” from business email compromise frauds and other scams.
The American government said Mr Abbas funded his extravagant lifestyle with stolen money.
He was formerly held in the Metropolitan Correction Centre in Chicago, United States but now, would be transported to Los Angeles by the U.S. Marshals Service, a court in the Northern District of Illinois ruled.
Mr Abbas, appearing at the detention hearing, was also denied to stay with his girlfriend’s uncle in Homewood, Illinois, Forbes reported.
His trial will continue in Los Angeles where the case was first filed and not from Chicago where the investigation is being handled.
Mr Abbas had hired a top lawyer in the U.S., Gal Pissetzky of the Pissetzky & Berliner law firm who argued that his client sourced his money from promoting designer products on social media and a real estate investment.
“Mr Abbas is an Instagram personality. A social media personality. Of course, he poses with high price items because that’s what he gets paid to do. That’s what he has built from growing up very poor in Nigeria, he was able to develop himself into this very well-known personality with millions of followers on Instagram.
“He is an influencer — that is what my kids would call him — an influencer. And people seeing him with these Louis Vuitton bags or clothes, or Gucci bags and clothes, or these fancy cars and they go and want it. They wanna buy it. That’s a job today. As much as it’s hard to imagine — that’s a full-time job,” Mr Pissetzky told Forbes.
However, on Monday, an assistant U.S. Attorney, Melody Wells who is a prosecutor in the Chicago district attorney’s office, convinced the court that Mr Abbas is a flight risk, describing his “significant” financial assets, “deep ties to foreign countries” and a lack of ties to the United States.
Mr Wells said the suspected fraudster had the “perfect recipe to flee the charges that he faces here.”
It was gathered that Mr Abbas had sought to live with a girlfriend’s relative in Illinois, but this was countered by Mr Wells who argued that he had up to this point “never visited” the girlfriend or their child in the United States.
“There is no evidence that he has ever even met this ‘Uncle’ who would be the third-party custodian under these circumstances,” Mr Wells was quoted as saying.
Nonetheless, his lawyer, Mr Pissetzky, denied that his client was a flight risk or a danger to the community, repeatedly rejecting the allegations made against his client by the FBI’s affidavit.
He added that his client’s social media images of lifestyle are being used as greater implied evidence of wrongdoing, than the actual evidence of wrongdoing presented by the FBI in the affidavit.
Consequently, the court ruled that there was “more than enough justification to order that the U.S. Marshall bring [Abbas] to California as soon as possible to answer the complaint there.”
It ruled that Mr Abbas had “a great incentive not to continue to respond to these proceedings here,” as he is “facing a long sentence.”
The court said there were risks if he was not immediately transferred to California, since, in addition to holding passports to other countries (Saint Kitts and Nevis), he also has “access to large amounts of money.”