New details have emerged about the case against Instagram influencer, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, commonly known as Hushpuppi, Forbes reported on Friday.
In July last year, Hushpuppi, who wowed the internet with pictures of his clothes, cars, money and lifestyle between 2012 and 2020, was charged by the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles with conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from “business email compromise” (BEC) frauds and other scams.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice shed more light on one of those scams: working with North Korean hackers to launder funds stolen from a Maltese bank.
A statement released by the Department of Justice said, Hushpuppi took part in a “North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019.”
In a July statement, the Department of Justice referred to the attack as “a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution.” Both the date and amount match that of the attack on Malta’s Bank of Valletta in February 2019.
Hushpuppi’s then lawyer, Gal Pissetzky, in July, told Forbes that Hushpuppi was not guilty of the charges and described him as “an entrepreneur” who made his money legitimately through “real estate” and his work “promoting brands” as an “Instagram personality.”
His trial was due to be heard in late 2020, before the pandemic forced a delay.
On Wednesday, his name emerged among details of a larger international criminal conspiracy involving so-called North Korean military hackers involved in “a series of destructive cyberattacks, to steal and extort more than $1.3 billion of money and cryptocurrency from financial institutions and companies,” according to the DOJ statement on the new indictment.
Paul Abbate, FBI Deputy Director, said in the statement that Wednesday’s unsealed indictment expands the FBI’s 2018 charges for the “unprecedented cyberattacks conducted by the North Korean regime.”
The US is specifically accusing North Koreans Jon Chang Hyok, 31, Kim Il, 27, and Park Jin Hyok, 36, of being members of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), a military intelligence agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The three North Koreans are described in the statement as being connected to “North Korean military hacking units” known in the cybersecurity community as Lazarus Group and Advanced Persistent Threat 38 (APT38).
Hushpuppi was linked to the North Korean conspiracy this week when federal prosecutors unsealed a charge against Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, of Ontario, Canada. Alaumary pled guilty to charges related to his role as a money launderer for the North Korean group filed in November 2020.
The Department of Justice connected Hushpuppi to the North Korean hackers through Alaumary, who they allege “conspired” with “Ray Hushpuppi,” to “launder funds from a North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019.”
Although largely unsuccessful, the attack was of such seriousness in Malta that the country’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was forced to address parliament in 2019 over what the Times of Malta described as the “creation of false international payments that saw €13 million transferred to banks in four countries.”