Miami Social Media Influencer Arrested in Colombia Probe - NBC Chicago
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Miami Social Media Influencer Arrested in Colombia Probe

Jenny Ambuila enjoyed a lifestyle that went well beyond her status as a college student

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    Miami Social Media Influencer Arrested in Colombia Probe
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    This April 9, 2012, photo illustration shows the photo-sharing app Instagram fan page on the Facebook website.

    Jenny Ambuila lived a lavish lifestyle in Miami that included frequent trips to designer stores, luxury vacations in Europe and jaunts around town in a red Lamborghini.

    But the fairy tale has ended abruptly for the 26-year-old social media influencer.

    The University of Miami graduate was arrested Friday while on holiday in Colombia, along with her parents and another customs official.

    Prosecutors say the arrests could help them untangle a large web of corruption at the Colombian port of Buenaventura, where Ambuila's father worked as a mid-level customs officer and allegedly pocketed millions of dollars in exchange for letting untaxed goods pass into the country.

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    "This is a fundamental case in our fight against smuggling," Andres Jimenez, a Colombian prosecutor, told a local radio station. "We are going after all of this corrupt structure, and the resources behind them."

    Jimenez says the investigation underscores recent attempts to stop smuggling in Colombia before markets in the country are flooded with contraband goods.

    He claims that Omar Ambuila, who earned a modest monthly salary of $3,000 as a ports inspector, received at least $600,000 in bribes since 2012 in overseas payments that have been traced by investigators, but could have received much more.

    Jimenez says that some of the illicit funds were used to send Ambuila's daughter to the University of Miami, where she studied from 2013 to 2017, earning a bachelor's in finance.

    Jenny Ambuila enjoyed a lifestyle that went well beyond her status as a college student, shopping regularly at designer stores like Gucci and Dolce & Gabanna, while taking luxury vacations to Milan and Paris. She regularly shared photos of her extravagant lifestyle on Instagram and Facebook, where she describes herself as a venture capitalist, foreign exchange trader and social media influencer.

    But Ambuila's penchant for showing off her lifestyle also led to her family's troubles.

    Jimenez says that as investigators looked into her social media profiles, they also began to investigate some of Ambuila's purchases, including her 2017 acquisition of a Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, worth more than $300,000. Ambuila shared photos and videos of herself on Facebook posing next to the red sports car, which had her Instagram handle inscribed above its trunk. She also bought a Porsche Cayenne while living in Miami.

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

    Ambuila, who is under house arrest in Colombia, did not immediately respond to requests for comment via social media, but she has told authorities she financed her luxury purchases by developing businesses that included an ice cream shop and a forex trading service.

    "She did set up some companies on paper," Jimenez told Colombia's Blu Radio. "But they did not make enough earnings to afford her that type of lifestyle."

    She has been charged with money laundering. Her father and her mother are in prison on additional charges of aiding smugglers and corruption.

    Jimenez says investigators are hoping to close in on other alleged members of Buenaventura's smuggling network in the following months.

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    "The amount of money that smuggling moves in this country is huge" Jimenez says. "We are hoping this investigation goes all the way to the top."