Social Media Influencer’s Lavish Posts Lead to Arrest for Money Laundering

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
April 3, 2019 Updated: April 29, 2019

A social media influencer in Miami who flaunted designer clothes and her red Lamborghini in online posts has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in her family’s alleged massive money laundering scheme.

Colombia-born Jenny Ambuila, 26, often posted lavish lifestyle snaps on Facebook and Instagram, including trips to designer shops, jaunts around Miami in her pricey sports car, and expensive vacations in Europe, according to reports.

But Ambuila’s charmed lifestyle came to a bitter end when authorities arrested her on Friday, March 29, while visiting Colombia.

The budding social media influencer, whose Facebook and Instagram accounts have thousands of followers, is now under house arrest in Colombia and has been charged with money laundering.

Her father Omar Ambuila, mother Elba Chara, and another customs official were also taken into custody.

Prosecutors say Ambuila’s father worked as a mid-level customs officer at the Colombian sea port of Buenaventura, where he allegedly took millions of dollars in bribes for letting untaxed goods pass into the country.

Her parents are in prison on additional charges of aiding smugglers and corruption, WCAU-TV reported.

‘All the Way to the Top’

The arrests are part of the Colombian government’s effort to stem the flow of contraband goods into local markets, undercutting legitimate businesses.

“The amount of money that smuggling moves in this country is huge,” Andres Jimenez, a Colombian prosecutor, told Colombia’s Blu Radio.

Jimenez said he suspects a larger web of corruption is still operating at the sea port.

“This is a fundamental case in our fight against smuggling. We are going after all of this corrupt structure and the resources behind them,” Jimenez said. “We are hoping this investigation goes all the way to the top.”

The Office of the Public Prosecutor in Colombia said that Omar Ambuila earned a relatively modest monthly salary of $3,000 as a ports inspector, according to El Tiempo.

Jimenez alleged Omar Ambuila raked in at least $600,000 in bribes since 2012, noting that this was just what investigators had managed to track. The actual figure, Jimenez said, could be a lot higher.

Some of the bribe money was allegedly transferred to Jenny Ambuila, who from 2013 to 2017 studied at the University of Miami.

“In exchange for their illicit act, these two people (Ambuila and the other official of the Dian) and other alleged accomplices would have received millionaire dividends that were hidden through front companies or were turned over to their relatives to acquire goods and services that would exceed their economic capacity,” prosecutors said, El Tiempo reported.

“For example, the two officials did not have salaries over 6 million pesos, however, they recorded income and purchases for much higher amounts with no clarity of their origin,” prosecutors added, according to the report.

The suspicions of investigators probing the case were further raised by the content of Ambuila’s social media profiles.

Her posts portrayed a lavish lifestyle that didn’t seem to fit her status as a college student whose parents worked as customs administrators.

‘Prove Them Wrong’

On Instagram and Facebook, Jenny Ambuila describes herself as a foreign exchange trader and entrepreneur, as well as an influencer in the areas of fashion and travel.

A Facebook post from July 7, 2016, features Ambuila surrounded by bags of products bearing the names Versace, Chanel, Cartier, while handling a Louis Vuitton travel bag, with the caption “shopaholic.”


Posted by Jenny JenbyJen on Thursday, July 7, 2016

Jimenez said some of the extraordinary purchases Ambuila boasted about in her posts that investigators took note of were a Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, worth more than $300,000, and a Porsche Cayenne.

“People assume that because they can’t make it you can’t make it either,” Ambuila wrote in a May 13, 2017 Facebook post where she shows a photo of the Lamborghini. “Prove them wrong.”

“Whoever said “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” never owned a Lamborghini💆🏾” she wrote in a Facebook post on May 1, 2017.

Whoever said "diamonds are a girl's best friend" never owned a Lamborghini💆🏾 #mybaby #Lamborghini #huracan #huracanspyder

Posted by Jenny JenbyJen on Monday, May 1, 2017

An Instagram post shows her holding a gold iPhone, captioned “I’m a gold member.”

Jimenez said she “set up some companies on paper,” but these endeavors “did not make enough earnings to afford her that type of lifestyle.”

El Tiempo cited the Prosecutor’s Office as alleging that some of Jenny Ambuila’s assets were purchased with illicit funds from “a scheme of corruption headed by two officials of the Dian, which would have allowed the illegal entry of tons of merchandise through the port of Buenaventura.”

The investigation into the case is ongoing.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'