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April 13, 2021

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A United States District Court in California has fixed July 27 as new date for the trial of the Nigerian Instagram celebrity facing fraud charges, Ramon Abass, also addressed as Hushpuppi.

This overruled a previous order from the court that fixed May 4 for the trial.

The recent order given by Judge Otis Wright followed an application for extension sought by Mr Abass’ defence counsel, Louis Shapiro.

Application

Mr Shapiro premised the request on the fact that he needed additional time to prepare for trial as he was recently hired by the defendant.

“On February 25, 2021, defendant’s current counsel, Louis J. Shapiro, substituted in as counsel of record. Defence counsel represents that he requires additional time to prepare this case for trial.

“Specifically, in light of the foregoing, and the complexity of the discovery and allegations in this case, counsel for defendant also represents that additional time is necessary to confer with defendant, conduct and complete an independent investigation of the case, conduct and complete additional legal research including for potential pre-trial motions, review the discovery and potential evidence in the case, and prepare for trial in the event that a pretrial resolution does not occur.

“Defence counsel represents that failure to grant the continuance would deny him reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence,” Mr Shapiro’s application filed March 19, read.

He added that the defendant believed that failure to grant the continuance would deny him “continuity of counsel and adequate representation”.

Mr Shapiro also noted that the United States government’s attorneys were not opposed to the extension as that was the first time such a request was made.

Also in the application, the defence counsel prayed the court for “the exclusion of the time, starting from when he was due for trial in October, 2020 up till July 27, 2021”.

According to the American law, the prosecution has to bring the defendant to trial within one year of the charges being filed.

Ruling

However, on March 22, the judge, Mr Wright, granted the orders of “the continuance of trial and excludable time periods” and fixed July 27, for trial.

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The judge ruled, “The court has read and considered the Stipulation Regarding Request for (1) Continuance of Trial Date and (2) Findings of Excludable Time Periods Pursuant to Speedy Trial Act, filed by the parties in this matter on March 19, 2021.

“The court hereby finds that the stipulation, which this court incorporates by reference into this order, demonstrates facts that support a continuance of the trial date in this matter, and provides good cause for a finding of excludable time pursuant to the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161.

“The trial in this matter is continued from May 4, 2021 to July 27, 2021 at 9:00 a.m.”

He added that the period of October 13, 2020 to July 27, 2021, inclusive, “is excluded in computing the time within which the trial must commence, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161(h)(7)(A), (h)(7)(B)(i), and (B)(iv).”

Background

Earlier in June, 2020, the 38-year-old known for flaunting his opulent lifestyle on social media, was arrested in Dubai by special agents including the Emerati police officers and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operatives.

The FBI stated in an affidavit obtained by PREMIUM TIMES that its investigations revealed that Mr Abbas financed this extravagant lifestyle with proceeds of crime.

He is alleged to be the leader of a mafia that facilitates computer intrusion, Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud and money laundering. FBI says his targeted victims, majorly in the U.S, have been duped of hundreds of millions of dollars.

In July 2020, Mr Abbas alongside Olalekan Ponle, popularly known as Woodberry, was extradited to Chicago in the United States where he was first arraigned.

However, because the U.S. court in Illinois does not have jurisdiction over the case, he was transferred to Los Angeles, a city in California.

At the pretrial services, 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.

If convicted, Mr Abass may spend the next 20 years in the U.S. federal prison.

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