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How the US caught flashy Nigerian Instagrammers 'with $40m'

A lesson about how you should be keeping your head down about where your UN-EXPECTED WEALTH COMES FROM, especially when your a multi-million dollar high roller fraudster...

Flashy Nigerian Instagrammers 'caught with $40m in cash'



"Olalekan Jacob Ponle, known as "mrwoodbery" to his Instagram followers, flaunted his wealth"

The day after his 29th birthday in May, Olalekan Jacob Ponle posted a picture on his Instagram standing next to a bright yellow Lamborghini in Dubai.

"Stop letting people make you feel guilty for the wealth you've acquired," he admonished, wearing designer jewellery and Gucci clothes from head to toe.

A month later, the Nigerian, who goes by the name "mrwoodbery" on Instagram, was arrested by Dubai Police for alleged money laundering and cyber fraud.

The most famous of the dozen Africans nabbed in the dramatic operation was 37-year-old Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, "hushpuppi" or just "hush" as he was known by his 2.4 million Instagram followers.

Police in the emirate say they recovered $40m (£32m) in cash, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8m, 21 computers, 47 smartphones and the addresses of nearly two million alleged victims.



Mr Abbas and Mr Ponle were both extradited to the US and charged in a Chicago court with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars obtained from cybercrimes.

The two have not yet been asked to plead and are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"I think there's probably a certain arrogance when they believe they've been careful about maintaining anonymity in their online identities, but they live high on the hog and get careless on social media," said Glen Donath, a former senior prosecutor in the US Attorney's Office in Washington, DC.

It is a spectacular crash for the two Nigerian men who extensively documented their high-flying lifestyle on social media, raising questions about the sources of their wealth.

They unwittingly provided crucial information about their identities and activities for American detectives with their Instagram and Snapchat posts.

They are accused of impersonating legitimate employees of various US companies in "business email compromise" (BEC) schemes and tricking the recipients into wiring millions of dollars into their own accounts.

On Instagram, hushpuppi said he was a real estate developer and had a category of videos called "Flexing" - social media lingo for showing off. But the "houses" were actually a codeword for bank accounts "used to receive proceeds of a fraudulent scheme", investigators allege.

"Our value system in Nigeria needs to be checked, especially the emphasis we place on wealth, no matter how you got it," the economist Ebuka Emebinah told the BBC from New York.

"It's a culture where people believe that results speak for you. We don't place as much emphasis on the process and this has built up over time."

English Premier League team targeted

In April, hushpuppi renewed his lease for another year at the exclusive Palazzo Versace apartments in Dubai under his real name and phone number.

"Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings in my life. Continue to shame those waiting for me to be shamed," he captioned an Instagram picture of a Rolls-Royce just a fortnight before he was arrested.

"Abbas finances this opulent lifestyle through crime, and he is one of the leaders of a transnational network that facilitates computer intrusions, fraudulent schemes (including BEC schemes), and money laundering, targeting victims around the world in schemes designed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars," the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) said in an affidavit.


In one case, a foreign financial institution allegedly lost $14.7m in a cyber-heist where the money ended up in hushpuppi's bank accounts in multiple countries.

The affidavit also alleged that he was involved in a scheme to steal $124m from an unnamed English Premier League team.

The FBI obtained records from his Google, Apple iCloud, Instagram and Snapchat accounts which allegedly contained banking information, passports, communication with conspirators and records of wire transfers.

About 90% of business email compromise scams originate in West Africa, research from American email security firm Agari shows.

'Yahoo boys'
The complaint against Mr Abbas and Mr Ponle describe tactics that resemble what the company calls Vendor Email Compromise tactics, where scammers compromise an email account and study communication between a customer and a vendor.


"The scammer would gather contextual details, as they watched the legitimate email flow," explains Crane Hassold, Agari's senior director of threat research.

"The bad actor would redirect emails to the bad actor's email account, craft emails to the customer that looked like they are coming from the vendor, indicate that the 'vendor' had a new bank account, provide 'updated' bank account information and the money would be gone, at that point."

Mr Ponle, known online as "mrwoodberry", used Mark Kain in emails, according to the FBI.

He is accused of defrauding a Chicago-based company into sending wire transfers of $15.2m. Companies in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New York, and California are also said to have fallen victim.

The cash trail allegedly disappeared after his accomplices, called money mules, converted the money into the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

Email scams have become so prevalent globally, and so deeply linked to Nigeria, that the fraudsters have a name in the country: "Yahoo boys".

They try to convince a recipient to wire money to the other side of the world or they go "phishing", stealing a user's identity and personal information for fraud.

The FBI warns against the Nigerian letter or "419" fraud - emails promising large sums of money, called advance fee scams. The "Nigerian prince" trope has become shorthand for deception.
 
"...defrauding a Chicago-based company into sending wire transfers of $15.2m. Companies in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New York, and California are also said to have fallen victim."

Target the obscenely greedy and you're always going to get a hit. Target 5 million daily and you're going to get rich. 419 scammers suck in $/£millions.
 
"...defrauding a Chicago-based company into sending wire transfers of $15.2m. Companies in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New York, and California are also said to have fallen victim."

Target the obscenely greedy and you're always going to get a hit. Target 5 million daily and you're going to get rich. 419 scammers suck in $/£millions.
His instagram is still up, a gallery of lavishness, *cough* a goldmine of EVIDENCE I mean *cough*
 
Obviously an example of "racist profiling".

Just because a black man drives a nice car*...


*not my definition of nice car - mine's 60+ mpg, capable of carrying a flat-pack wardrobe and 3m lengths of 2"x4" internally and not attractive to car thieves.
 
Obviously an example of "racist profiling".

Just because a black man drives a nice car*...


*not my definition of nice car - mine's 60+ mpg, capable of carrying a flat-pack wardrobe and 3m lengths of 2"x4" internally and not attractive to car thieves.
Apart from your mpg, that sounds like my wife.
 
..."Our value system in Nigeria needs to be checked, especially the emphasis we place on wealth, no matter how you got it," the economist Ebuka Emebinah told the BBC from New York.

"It's a culture where people believe that results speak for you. We don't place as much emphasis on the process and this has built up over time"...

Not just Nigeria. There is a fascination with money and flashy lifestyles that pervades the entire continent. It often exceeds being embarrassingly crass by several degrees.
 

Chef

LE
Bearing in mind how dim these two are as far as maintaining a low profile. It does make you wonder at the intelligence levels of the people in the companies they scam.

Having just reread that I thought 'Capita' and UK Government.
 

Tool

LE
Not just Nigeria. There is a fascination with money and flashy lifestyles that pervades the entire continent. It often exceeds being embarrassingly crass by several degrees.
You mis-typed "orders of magnitude".

Nigeria, however, is seen as the epicentre of this obsession. Understandable when there are so many titled ("prince" and "princess") people who used to have stature in society (read: tribe) but in the modern world are nothings.
 
Bearing in mind how dim these two are as far as maintaining a low profile. It does make you wonder at the intelligence levels of the people in the companies they scam.

Having just reread that I thought 'Capita' and UK Government.
I have the same problem about maintaining a low profile, my laptop is worth 3 grand and I'm on disability benefits.

I've seen fat single mum's pushing around their kids in Kent wearing designer clothing and expensive shoes costing a few hundred pounds, no racial rias but most of the young-uns in the pram are of a black or mixed race ethnicity...
 
You mis-typed "orders of magnitude".

Nigeria, however, is seen as the epicentre of this obsession. Understandable when there are so many titled ("prince" and "princess") people who used to have stature in society (read: tribe) but in the modern world are nothings.
True, but the rest of Africa is the same (modified a little in Botswana). Beaten up bakkies and Toyota FJ40s tend to be the transport of choice for the hard-working, horny-handed farmer, while Benz's, in either black or garish colour, the preserve of those with clammy paws. Rollers/Bentleys aren't bought by those who've earned their riches.
 

BratMedic

LE
Book Reviewer
I have the same problem about maintaining a low profile, my laptop is worth 3 grand and I'm on disability benefits.

I've seen fat single mum's pushing around their kids in Kent wearing designer clothing and expensive shoes costing a few hundred pounds, no racial rias but most of the young-uns in the pram are of a black or mixed race ethnicity...
They are not kids, they are fashion accessories.
 
After reading this thread I am beginning to think that the lovely person who purports to come from Ghana,but who usually resides in the USA, may not be genuine.
 

Seadog

ADC
An FBI spokesman said that although no flash bangs were used by police involved in the arrests, purple smoke and the smell of sulphur pervaded the apartments of all the accused.
 
Bearing in mind how dim these two are as far as maintaining a low profile. It does make you wonder at the intelligence levels of the people in the companies they scam.

Having just reread that I thought 'Capita' and UK Government.

It all depends on the scam. A very successful one is to clone the email address of stationary of a service supplier. The scammer then sends and email/letter informing the target company that they have changed banks and all invoices should now be paid to bank account XYZ.

The request does through internal processes and is only discovered after the month payment run when the genuine supplier is not paid.
 

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