Ramon Abass, popularly known as Hushpuppi, has agreed to plead guilty to the multi-million-dollar fraud charges filed against him by the United States government.
Hushpuppi who was arrested in UAE and extradited to the U.S has spent the last one year in in U.S insisting on his innocence.
But with his trial about to commence, he has now made a volte-face, entering into a plea bargain agreement with the U.S. government with the hope of getting a lesser sentence.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California states in the agreement that beginning no later than on or about January 18th, 2019 or about June 9th, 2020, Hushpuppi “knowingly combined, agreed, and conspired with multiple other persons (“co-conspirators”) to conduct financial transactions into, within, and outside the United States involving property that represented the proceeds of wire fraud.”
According to USAO, targeted multiple victims and laundered and/or attempted to launder funds fraudulently obtained, and attempted to be fraudulently obtained, through bank cyber-heists, business email compromise (BEC) frauds, and other fraud schemes.
The intended victims of the conspiracy were said to include a bank in Malta, the victim’s law firm that is located in New York State and two companies located in the United Kingdom.
Hushpuppi know that “these fraudulent schemes included bank cyber-heists, BEC schemes, and other fraud schemes.”
The bank in Malta was an intended victim of a cyber-heist, while the other victims identified above were victims of BEC schemes.
In some BEC schemes involving victim companies in the United Kingdom, Hushpuppi was said to have with one co-conspirator discussed on May 12, 2019, how they anticipated fraudulent payments of approximately £6 million per week.
“Once a victim deposited funds into a bank account, defendant would coordinate with other co-conspirators to obtain or move the funds, and then to further launder the funds,” the U.S. government said.
He was also said to have admitted involvement in a scheme to defraud a victim company in Qatar that was building an international school (the Qatari Victim Company) and the owner of that company.
He was also said to have in December 2019, begun conspiring with a co-conspirator to defraud the owner of the Qatari company “who was seeking a lender to invest $15,000,000 in a project to build an international school”.
Hushpuppi’s alleged co-conspirator was said to have already defrauded the victim of funds at the time that the defendant joined the scheme.
“Beginning on or around December 11, 2019, defendant began to communicate with the Victim Businessperson, fraudulently using the name Malik,” it was stated.
As Malik, the prosecution said further, Huspuppi falsely told the victim that he would open a bank account in the United States where the $15,000,000 loan could initially be deposited.
“In truth, defendant and co-conspirator A did not intend to assist the Victim Businessperson in securing a loan; they were defrauding the Victim Businessperson,” the prosecution alleged.
PLANS TO PLEA BARGAIN
He is planning to plead guilty to the charge of “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering,” an offence that attracts a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.
The copy of plea bargain agreement between Hushpuppi and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California (USAO) signed by Hushpuppi, his lawyer, Louis Shapiro, and the Assistant United States Attorney, Anil Antony, on July 4, was filed at a U.S. Central District Court of California on Tuesday.
A date will now be fixed for him to change his previous “not guilty” plea to “guilty” and will be followed by a sentencing hearing.
‘Earliest opportunity to plead guilty’
He will then “at the earliest opportunity” appear and plead guilty to Count Two of the Information”, which is “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering.”
He will also sign anther agreement that states that he will “not contest facts agreed to in this agreement.”
He has also agreed to “abide by all agreements regarding sentencing contained in this agreement.”
He also agrees that “all court appearances, including his change of plea hearing and sentencing hearing, may proceed by video-teleconference (VTC) or telephone, if VTC is not reasonably available, so long as such appearances are authorized by Order of the Chief Judge 20-043 or another order, rule, or statute”.
And also agreed that “under Section 15002(b) of the CARES Act to proceed with his sentencing hearing by VTC or telephone, if VTC is not reasonably available.”
He will “Appear for all court appearances, surrender as ordered for service of sentence, obey all conditions of any bond, and obey any other ongoing court order in this matter.”
He agreed to “Be truthful at all times with the United States Probation and Pretrial Services Office and the Court. “
‘Full restitution despite guilty plea’
He will not be exempted from paying restitution despite pleading guilty.
“Defendant understands that defendant will be required to pay full restitution to the victim(s) of the offence to which defendant is pleading guilty.
“Defendant agrees that, in return for the USAO’s compliance with its obligations under this agreement, the court may order restitution to persons other than the victim(s) of the offenses to which defendant is pleading guilty and in amounts greater than those alleged in the count to which defendant is pleading guilty,” the plea agreement also read.
‘RIGHT OF APPEAL WAIVED’
The agreement also stipulates that with the exception of an appeal based on a claim that his guilty plea was involuntary, he will be “waiving and giving up any right to appeal” against his conviction on the offence to which defendant is pleading guilty.
The exact sentence to be imposed on Hushpuppi was not agreed om, but provided that he “demonstrates an acceptance of responsibility for the offence up to and including the time of sentencing,” the prosecution is recommending “a two-level reduction in the applicable Sentencing Guidelines offence level”.
“If necessary,” it may “move for an additional one-level reduction if available under that section.”
He will be deported back to Nigeria after completing his jail term and paying up the amount to be restituted as he is not an American citizen.
The maximum penalty for the offence he committed which his plea bargain will reduce is “20 years’ imprisonment; a 3-year period of supervised release; a fine of $500,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest; and a mandatory special assessment of $100.”
Hushpuppi was was arrested in Dubai by the Emerati Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operatives and flown to the U.S to face charges of defrauding American citizens.