Dubai nabs Hushpuppi, Woodberry cybercriminals

By Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 26 June 2020: Dubai Police recently arrested Raymond Igbalode Abbas, also known as “Hushpuppi” and Olalekan Jacob Ponle aka “Woodberry” in a special operation along with ten other African cybercriminals.

Dubbed “Fox Hunt 2”, the operation took down the suspects for committing crimes outside the UAE, including money-laundering, cyber fraud, hacking, criminal impersonating, scamming individuals, banking fraud and identity theft.

Lt. General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-chief of the Dubai Police, said the arrest of ‘Hushpuppi’, ‘Woodberry’ and ten gang members is another achievement added to the proud record of the Dubai police in ensuring the emirate’s security and safety as well as preserving people’s money and property.

“Similar to operation ‘Fox Hunt 1’ that took down an African gang of nine online scammers last February, Op ‘Fox Hunt 2’ is another painful hit to cybercriminals who try to mess with the world’s security and safety,” he said.

Al Marri further reaffirmed the force’s commitment to foil cyber fraud and online scams using the latest technology. “As criminals constantly change their criminal methods, Dubai Police works tirelessly to qualify elite officers and employees specialising in understanding the latest technologies to tackle emerging and transnational organised crimes,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Al Marri also praised the tremendous efforts of the teams under the Dubai Police who arrested the suspects and mastered the use of modern technologies.

Synchronised raids by six SWAT teams

According to Major General Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri, Assistant Commander-in-Chief for Criminal Investigation Affairs and an expert, the suspects were caught in a series of synchronised raids by six SWAT teams from Dubai Police. “The operation was carried out in a highly professional manner in terms of planning and execution as well as setting a zero hour to take down all gang members in the same time,” Al Mansouri said.

Al Mansouri said the operation foiled the gang’s bid to deceive numerous people around the world and steal their money.

He also lauded the efforts of the task force assigned to the case. “The investigation teams at Dubai Police have done a great job in utilising AI-based technologies, including the Criminal Data Analysis Centre at Dubai Police, to track down the cyber fraudsters,” he added.

Revealing the operational details, Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, Director of the Criminal Investigation Department, CID, in Dubai Police, said that upon receiving the security intelligence about an African gang involved in money-laundering and cyber fraud, an investigation team was formed to track down the suspects, make the arrests, putting an end to the gang’s illegal activities.

“After verifying the available information, the team had started to track the gang including “Hushpuppi”, who celebrated his wealth via social media platforms as a businessman, in an attempt to lure victims from all over the world,” Al Jallaf said.

Hacking corporate emails

Al Jallaf said the anti-cybercrime task force tracked down the gang members and detected their criminal activities including creating fake accounts on social media sites with fake nicknames. The gang was also hacking corporate emails to deceive clients into making money transfers into their bank accounts.

“The suspects also targeted victims overseas by creating fake websites for well-known companies and banks in a bid to steal credit card information and then launder the stolen money,” Al Jallaf continued.

The director of Dubai CID said the raid resulted in the confiscation of incriminating documents of a planned fraud on a global scale worth AED1.6 billion (US$435 million).

“The team also seized more than AED150 million ($40.9 million) in cash, 13 luxury cars with an estimated value of AED25 million ($6.8 million) obtained from fraud crimes, and confiscated 21 computer devices, 47 smartphones, 15 memory sticks, five hard disks containing 119,580 fraud files as well as addresses of 1,926,400 victims,” he said.

Sensitive information mined

After conducting further investigations and analysing confiscated electronic devices, Dubai Police investigators uncovered sensitive information mined by the suspects on individuals and companies overseas including bank accounts and fake credit cards as well as documents and files condemning the gangs’ illegal activities.

Fox Hunt 1 Last February, Dubai Police arrested an African gang of nine fraudsters specialising in cyber scam after they had run 81 fake business across 18 countries around the world.

Dubbed “Fox Hunt 1” the operation revealed a hidden online fraud network that deceived victims into transferring money in return for job opportunities. The gang used multiple bank accounts to make money transfers and deposits totalling more than AED32 million ($8.7 million) The operation prevented the gang from abusing 800,000 email addresses and foiled their bid to steal AED4 billion ($1.08 billion).

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