Fresh evidence from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has revealed how Ramon Abbas, popularly called Hushpuppi, a Nigerian Instagram sensation, was involved in laundering unemployment benefits meant for citizens of the United States.
The scheme is one of the insurance programmes provided for workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements. The joint state-federal programme provides cash benefits to these workers.
Hushpuppi, who was arrested in UAE over money laundering and cyber fraud allegations, is currently facing charges in the U.S.
He is accused of facilitating computer intrusion, Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud and money laundering and has been arraigned in an American court in California. His trial begins on October 13.
He pleaded not guilty to the four counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering conspiracies, international money laundering and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
Nevertheless, in the affidavit filed on September 14, with the United States District Court, Central District of California, Andrew John Innocenti, an FBI agent trained on foiling cybercrime indicted Mr Abbas in the outcome of his investigation.
Mr Innocenti said he discovered that Hushpuppi, using his email address, registered on a website whizzlog.com (“Whizzlog”) which is a marketplace for buying US Bank Logs and money laundering.
He said although, based on his training, sophisticated cybercriminals do not use their personal email address in registering on such websites but Hushpuppi did.
“ABBAS email address contained registration contamination from Whizz Log. It also contained numerous confirmations and receipts of bank logs he purchased. One of such messages read “Your order was successful. You have purchased (the “Financial Institution”) bank log with a balance of $9,839.44. Purchase Price: $955. The bank log details are in your account. Login to your Whizz Log account to view.”
“From the example above. I observed ABBAS buys a bank log with a balance of over S9,000 for as low as $900. This prompted me to visit the website whizzlog.com for more findings.”
After creating an account, the FBI agent discovered that Whizz Log sells only accounts which have been used to claim unemployment benefits. “Hackers who have claimed unemployment benefits of victims in the United States sell them off in bulk on Whizz Log.”
The prices of bank logs on Whizz Log range from $600 to S1,000 and balance in accounts sold ranges from $4,000 to as high as $12,000, he noted.
For easier payment, the bank logs are available for purchase instantly and payment is made using Bitcoin.
“Cyber criminals who purchase the bank logs can launder the money off through various means. The favorite means on Whizz Log is to buy Bitcoins with the balance in the bank log Whizz Log specifies if a bank log is “BTC Compatible” or not.
“Based on my training and experience, a bank account is “BTC Compatible” if you can buy Bitcoins from within the bank log. Some banks allow clients to directly purchase Bitcoins from their online bank account. Such banks are “BTC Compatible”. A buyer of a “BTC Compatible” bank log would login to the account, navigate to services provided by the bank and select to buy Bitcoins. He can use the whole balance in the account to buy Bitcoins. The Bitcoins will be sent to the criminal within minutes.”
While going through one of the bank accounts bought on the website, Mr Innocenti found that the account was recently opened.
“All the credits into the account were from the Department of Unemployment Assistance totaling $7,302.15,” he stated.
Since Mr Abbas had pleaded that he should be prosecuted with complaints rather than a grand jury indictment, this new evidence will be added to the previous ones.
If found guilty and convicted, the popular Instagram sensation could spend the next 20 years in prison.
Yobe Governor, Buni Marries Abacha’s Divorced Daughter, Gumsu
Yobe Governor Mai Mala Buni on Wednesday married Gumsu Sani Abacha in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The marriage was held at the Abuja residence of the new wife’s brother, Mohammed Abacha.
Buni is the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker National Chairman; Gumsu is a daughter of former Head of State, Sani Abacha.
Notable personalities and government officials, including the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali attended.
In 2019, shortly after he assumed office, Buni tied the knot with Ummy, a daughter of his predecessor and incumbent Yobe East Senator Ibrahim Gaidam.
Gumsu, 45, is the governor’s fourth wife. Her marriage to Cameroonian multi-billionaire, Bayero Mohamadou crashed in 2020.
Wike Locks Down Rivers for LGA Elections
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has ordered restriction of movement ahead of the local government election in the state.
The election is slated for Saturday, April 17 across 4,442 polling units, 319 wards and 23 local government areas.
In a broadcast on Thursday, Wike said the restriction from Friday night to Saturday is needed to ensure the smooth conduct of the election by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RVSIEC).
The governor assured residents that security agencies will provide adequate protection at all the polling units and collation centres.
“Consequently, vehicular and human movements, within and out of the state and the local government areas is hereby totally restricted from the midnight of Friday, 16th April, 2021, until the end of polling at 5pm on Saturday, 17th April, 2021, except for persons and vehicles strictly on essential duties with genuine and valid identifications,” Wike said.
“The security agencies have been directed to strictly enforce the restriction on human and vehicular movements and arrest and prosecute any person who dares to violate this ban. I have been briefed and received assurances from the RVSIEC that it is fully prepared and ready not only to conduct, but also to ensure that polling is hitch-free, fair and credible.
“Furthermore, the security agencies have clear directives to arrest and deal decisively with any person or group of persons, no matter how highly placed, who attempts to prevent the peaceful and orderly conduct of the election or compromise its integrity in any way.
“We call on community leaders and the general public to be vigilant and promptly report every suspicious movement and or illegal activity around polling units and collation centres in their localities to the security agencies for immediate action.”
Wike added that his administration will always ensure the promotion of democratic principles, including the election of officials at local government levels across the state.
“As a government that believes in the practice and consolidation of democracy, and in fulfilment of our constitutional duty to ensure the sustenance of democratically-elected local government councils in the state, we have since decided never to run our local government system with caretaker committees, except in inevitably justifiable circumstances,” he said.
“It is against this background that this election has been fixed to once again give our people the opportunity to effectively participate in the process of electing and constituting the next set of chairmen and councillors to administer the 23 local government councils.”
The governor urged voters to conduct themselves peacefully and refrain from any act of violence, adding that the election is not a do-or-die affair.
EFCC Frees Okorocha after Two Days Detention
Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo state, has been released from the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), two days after he was invited for questioning.
Okorocha, who is currently representing Imo west at the senate, was grilled at the EFCC office in Abuja on Tuesday, over issues bothering on alleged corruption.
The former governor, who was in charge of Imo from 2011 to 2019, had been accused by the state government of various corrupt practices including diversion of public funds — although Okorocha has denied any wrongdoing.
Documents obtained by TheCable showed how the former governor awarded 12 contracts worth N20 billion in violation of the public procurement act.
TheCable had also reported how a government committee uncovered N112.8 billion “dubious debts”, which various banks owed the state during Okorocha’s tenure.
Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha’s media adviser, confirmed that Okorocha left the custody of the anti-graft agency on Thursday.
“With gratitude to God Almighty, we are delighted to inform the general public that the former governor of lmo state, and by the grace of God, the Senator representing lmo west senatorial district, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is out of the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and he is now in his house,” the statement reads.
“He left the Commission’s office on the afternoon of Thursday, April 15, 2021.”
Onwuemeodo, who described Okorocha’s invitation to the EFCC’s office as a “trip” said the former governor had earlier given the assurance that he will cooperate fully with the agency.
“We didn’t bother about whether he spent 24 hours or 48 hours at the Commission’s office. We were only keen in his having the needed opportunity to address the allegations contained in the avalanche of petitions written by the lmo State Government, against the former governor,” the spokesman said.
“Remember also that we had alluded that EFCC was not a slaughter house, but a responsible institution, established for the good of the nation and her people. And Okorocha being in his house today, only confirmed our hypothesis that, indeed, the Commission’s office is not an abattoir.”