Hushpuppi’s New Money Laundering Claims Are Based on Forged Documents.

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Screenshots of a supposedly court document have been circulating online in Nigeria, with accusations that it implicates Instagram celebrity Ramon Abbas, better known as Hushpuppi, in a $400,000 money laundering scam carried out from within a US prison.

Abbas is currently on trial in the United States after pleading guilty to online fraud. The assertion, however, is false: the screenshots were digitally altered using documents outlining past charges against Abbas. Officials in the United States have similarly discounted the claim.
On March 17, 2022, Arise TV, a Nigerian broadcaster, posted four pictures of a court document supposedly documenting how Abbas fraudulently acquired Economic Impact Payment (EIP) debit cards while imprisoned in the United States.

“Ramon Abbas, also known as ‘Ray Hushpuppi,’ who was imprisoned for fraud and money laundering and is presently serving time in a US federal prison in California, was discovered laundering $400k worth of EIP debit cards,” AriseTV tweeted.

 

USA Crime

On March 18, a screenshot was captured of AriseTV’s bogus tweet.

On the same day, Nigerian daily newspapers Vanguard, Leadership, and The Independent published a similar assertion.

EIP cards are prepaid debit cards supplied by the US Treasury for qualifying Americans to receive stimulus money. According to the allegedly leaked court documents, Abbas utilised hacked data from US residents to acquire 58 EIP cards totaling $429,800.

Similar allegations have been made on blogs and by individuals in Nigeria and other African countries.

Popular Nigerian campaigner Deji Adeyanju, for example, made the allegation on his social media sites, including his Facebook page, which has over 420,000 followers, and his Twitter account. Adeyanju merely sent a snapshot of Abbas from the past.

On March18, a screenshot was captured of Adeyanju’s Facebook post.

Amoaning Samuel, a Ghanaian blogger, and Blaise Eyong, a Cameroonian journalist, are in the same boat (who later published a correction).

Meanwhile, a Facebook group called “Foluke Daramola” shared the claim, as well as seven screenshots of the alleged court document, as proof. This Facebook page has previously been debunked by AFP Fact Check.

The first four screenshots were released in a tweet by Arise TV. The last screenshot bears the signature of US District Judge Rozella Oliver.

All of the posts give the appearance that Abbas engaged in fraudulent activities from behind bars, but there is no evidence to back up the assertion. The documents in question were, in reality, digitally modified versions of prior charges.

Document tampering

AFP Fact Check investigated the US Department of Justice website for the phrase “Abbas” and discovered no indications of the document that is presently being circulated online.

However, the search yielded three items, including a 28-page court document submitted by FBI Special Agent Andrew John Innocenti on June 25, 2020.

The 2020 charges against Abbas are depicted in this screenshot.

AFP Fact Check discovered that the version currently circulating online, dated March 16, 2022, was in fact fabricated by digitally modifying the 2020 court document.

Aside from the fact that some of the phrases in the original allegations were replicated precisely in the ostensibly new document, the signature of the California court’s judge was also copied.

There are a number of anomalies in the ostensibly new document that point to document changes. Broken lines can be seen beneath the signature bar, which looks to be over Judge Oliver’s signature.

Signatures from the 2020 charge sheet and the digitally altered document dated 2022 are compared.

“AJ,” the not-so-mysterious

According to the ostensibly new document, the FBI is looking into the identity of one “AJ” for allegedly supporting Abbas in the alleged scam. “We are currently seeking to uncover the identify of ABBAS’s collaborator ‘AJ,'” item 23 of the paper states.

AJ’s identity, on the other hand, has long been known. According to the court’s statement, AJ’s name is Yusuf Adekinka Anifowoshe, and he was detained by FBI special agents in New York on July 22, 2021, because he “apparently had a role in the fraud, supporting Abbas with a call to the victim.”

Website that is fraudulent

Further analysis reveals that the tampered document was used to deceive unwary internet users into visiting a bogus EIP website.

The modified paper constantly referenced the website “www.stimuluscard.com.” Whois.com, a website identifying tool, listed the registrant contacts as “+354.4212434”.

A Google search for the number led to the website of a bitcoin exchange platform in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.

The number has been linked to internet scammers who employ malware to steal people’s personal information.

It was highlighted, for example, in a 2021 malware analysis report by the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which discovered the number associated with three files “associated with a strain of DarkSide ransomware.”

Ransomware is intended to encrypt the victim’s files in order to demand a ransom for their retrieval.

Furthermore, the phone number was reported online in a number of scam charges.

US officials deny the claim.

The paper is not real, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

On March 17, 2022, spokesman Thom Mrozek told AFP Fact Check, “The United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, which filed the case against Mr. Abbas, has not submitted any such document.” “Based on an examination of the document excerpted in recent media articles, the paper looks to have been created.”

“We confirmed with the FBI agent who allegedly wrote the document, and he says it’s a forgery,” Mrozek continued.

Abbas is awaiting punishment in the United States, where he pled guilty last year to money laundering and other offences that resulted in a $14.7 million loss to a Malta bank.

The US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles filed the charges against Abbas following his extradition from Dubai in July 2020. Abbas has been in detention since and was scheduled to be sentenced on February 14, 2022, but the California court deferred the decision until July 11, 2022.

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AFP Fact Check has disproved various misleading claims regarding Abbas and his ongoing legal battle in the United States, including articles saying he had been released from detention.

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