NATIONAL NEWS

Instagram fraudster ‘Jay Mazini’ has been sentenced for his crypto scheme that preyed on Muslims

Apr 24, 2024, 6:25 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The former Instagram influencer known as “ swindled millions of dollars from online followers and a network of Muslims during the pandemic was sentenced to seven years in prison on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

Jebara Igbara, 28, of New Jersey, had pleaded guilty to fraud charges, admitting that he created a Ponzi scheme that involved cryptocurrency frauds netting around $8 million. Prosecutors say the money funded a decadent lifestyle that included luxury cars and a lot of gambling.

Exploiting the economic chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, Igbara leveraged connections in the Muslim community to gather investments for his firm Hallal Capital LLC, saying it would earn returns on stocks, and the reselling of electronics and personal protective equipment.

“Shamefully, he targeted his own religious community, taking advantage of their trust in him so he could spend and gamble their hard-earned money,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.

As he networked with high-value investors locally, Igbara amplified his online persona, reaching around 1 million Instagram followers, prosecutors said.

He built a following in part by filming cash giveaways, often handing stacks of money to fast food workers or everyday people checking out at Walmart. In at least one video, he handed out cash alongside rapper 50 Cent.

Viewers got the impression he was so successful he could just give money away. And his online popularity earned him even more trust from fraud victims, prosecutors said.

By 2020, he attracted the ire of online sleuths who openly accused him of fraud, and cheered when he was arrested in 2021 on kidnapping charges. He later admitted in another case to kidnapping a potential witness to his frauds.

But many of his victims did turn to the FBI, according to court documents.

At least four people told FBI agents they sent over $100,000 in Bitcoin, on a promise of a cash wire transfer, according to court documents. One victim reported being scammed out of 50 Bitcoin, with Igbara first faking $2.56 million in a wire transfer, and later explaining away why the transfers hadn’t arrived.

Igbara addressed the people he ripped off ahead of his sentencing on Wednesday in a Brooklyn federal court.

“He apologized profusely to his victims,” lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman said following the sentencing Wednesday in Brooklyn.

Igbara’s seven-year sentence for fraud will run concurrently with five-year prison sentencing for the kidnapping and includes time served since 2021, his lawyer said.

As part of his sentence, Igbara is ordered to pay $10 million to his victims.

As for “Jay Mazini,” the Instagram and other social media accounts are mostly scrubbed. But the saga lives on in compilations on YouTube, and in an episode of the 2023 documentary series “ The Age of Influence.”

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Instagram fraudster ‘Jay Mazini’ has been sentenced for his crypto scheme that preyed on Muslims