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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

New twist to Hushpuppi’s fraud case

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The U. S. Central District Court in California has again postponed the sentencing of a Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Ramon Abass, popularly known as Hushpuppi, for the multi-million-dollar fraud charges he has pleaded guilty to.

Arrested in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate (UAE) in June 2020, and subsequently flown to the U.S., Hushpuppi pleaded guilty to the charges in July 2021 and was ordered to remain in custody pending sentencing.

Judge Otis Wright has fixed September 21 as the new sentencing date.

“At the request of counsel, the Sentencing is CONTINUED to 9/21/2022 at 1:30 PM before Judge Otis D. Wright II, as to Defendant Ramon Olorunwa Abbas,” the court’s announcement made June 24 read.

The sentence hearing was initially moved by Judge Wright from February 14 to July 11 and has now been moved to September 21 at the counsel’s request.

Mr Abass, in July 2021 agreed to plead guilty to the multi-million-dollar fraud charges filed against him by the United States government.

He has been in custody since his arrest in Dubai and rendition to the U. S. in June 2020.

RAMON OLORUNWA ABBAS, aka “Ray Hushpuppi,” [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Instagram account of Hushpuppi]
RAMON OLORUNWA ABBAS, aka “Ray Hushpuppi,” before he was arrested by the US authorities and charged for fraud [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Instagram account of Hushpuppi]

After initially maintaining his innocence, Mr Abass made a volte-face, entering into a plea bargain agreement with the U.S. government in July 2021, in the hope of getting a lighter punishment.

He pleaded guilty to Count Two which is “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering,” an offence that attracts a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment among other punishments including full restitution, his plea agreement with the U.S. government states in part.

Despite pleading guilty, Mr Abass will not be exempted from paying restitution.

“Defendant understands that the defendant will be required to pay full restitution to the victim(s) of the offence to which the 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 seen by PREMIUM TIMES in July 2021 read.

The exact sentence to be imposed on Mr Abass remains unknown. However, provided Mr Abass “demonstrates an acceptance of responsibility for the offence up to and including the time of sentencing,” the prosecution said it recommends “a two-level reduction in the applicable Sentencing Guidelines offence level”.

“If necessary,” the prosecution adds, it may “move for an additional one-level reduction if available under that section.”

Not being an American citizen, he will be deported after completing his jail term and paying up the amount to be restituted.

The maximum penalty for the offence which Mr Abass hopes will be reduced at his sentencing include: “20 years’ imprisonment; a three-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.”

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