Music manager, producer and entrepreneur, Kristian “Murda” Murphy, is the victim of a serious Instagram hack. “I’m sitting home by myself literally watching TV, all of a sudden I see these texts started coming in and I’m like, ‘What the fuck?’” said Murphy.
One example of these threatening texts reads the following; “Murda u always outside we gon see you”. In addition to threatening bodily harm, the anonymous messengers told Murphy they were coming for one of his most valuable assets — the @murdamurphy Instagram account. It had more than 300,000 followers and brought in thousands of dollars a month thanks to people and companies who paid Murphy to share sponsored posts.
“WE PACKING ACCOUNTS SOON 🤣🤣” read a message from a person who identified himself as OBNBrandon.
Murphy didn’t know it at the time, but he was in the crosshairs of one of the most prolific and notorious members of a booming underground community of Instagram scammers and hackers who shut down profiles on the social network and then demand payment to reactivate them.
Exploiting the app’s slow and often ineffective customer support services and its easily manipulated account reporting systems, these Instascammers often target people whose accounts are vulnerable because their content verges on nudity and pornography, which Instagram and its parent company, Meta, prohibit.
OBN has dubbed himself the “log-out king” because “I have deleted multiple celebrities + influencers on Meta & Instagram.”
“I made about $300k just off banning and unbanning pages,” he wrote. OBN exploits weaknesses in Meta’s customer service. By allowing anyone to report an account for violating the company’s standards, Meta gives enormous leverage to people who are able to trick it into banning someone who relies on Instagram for income.
The goal? Frustrating celebrities.
Models, businesspeople, marketers and adult performers across the United States told ProPublica that OBN had ruined their businesses and lives with spurious complaints, even causing one woman to consider suicide. More than half a dozen people with over 45 million total followers on Instagram told ProPublica they lost their accounts temporarily or permanently shortly after OBN threatened to report them. They say Meta failed to help them and to take OBN and other account manipulators seriously.
“Once you’re put on Brandon’s radar, whether someone’s paying him or not, he has this personal investment in making sure that your life is miserable and that he’ll try and get as much money out of you as he possibly can,” said Kay Jenkins, a Miami real estate agent and model to ProPublica. Her main Instagram account with roughly 100,000 followers has been repeatedly deactivated since 2021.
One of OBN’s goals is to cut revenue from big influencers. Until OBN came along, Murphy was earning between $15,000 and $20,000 a month from his Instagram account. It was filled with pictures of him with rappers and well-known figures from the Miami nightlife. Murphy, a stocky man with short blond hair and permanent five o’clock shadow, typically posed in black clothes, aviator sunglasses and thick diamond chains, with one or both of his middle fingers extended at the camera. He charged aspiring entrepreneurs between $2,000 and $5,000 per story to be featured in a post on his verified account.
“I make money with that account, so it’s not fair to me that this guy has more power than Meta — it’s like a multi billion-billion-billion-dollar company,” Murphy said. “And they can’t do nothing about it.”
Online, OBN portrays himself as something of a gangster. Videos and photos he’s posted indicate he drives a white Lamborghini and wears expensive watches. Until very recently, his identity was kept secret.
His main marketing vehicle for his services is the messaging app Telegram, where he has run a channel called @teamobn since August 2021. He posts about accounts he says he got banned, unbanned or verified. He touts software he uses to file false reports that allege an account violated Meta’s community guidelines, triggering a takedown.
There is a misogynistic note to OBN’s targets as he often goes for women who rely on Instagram to draw people to their pages on OnlyFans, where they charge subscribers to view sexually explicit content.
Only recently has OBN’s identity been broken down. ProPublica’s investigation led to one person who either is OBN or is closely linked to him: 20-year-old Edwin Reyes-Martinez, who lives with his mother in an apartment complex roughly 13 miles north of the Las Vegas strip.
Numerous clues connected Reyes-Martinez to OBN. Victims said OBN told them to send money to a bank account in the name of Edwin Reyes, or via an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, that included Reyes-Martinez’s initials. That address also matched a partially redacted email, email@example.com, that’s listed in the Las Vegas police letter OBN posted on Telegram.
Visited at his home in early February, Reyes-Martinez was dressed in a baggy, orange long-sleeve shirt, brown pants and brown slippers. A pair of gold and diamond studs sparkled in his ears. At first, he denied knowing who OBN is or having anything to do with him.
After being told that his own bank account had accepted more than $10,000 in payments intended for OBN in just the past few months, he changed his story. He said that someone named Brandon asked him to funnel money through his bank account to unknown recipients.
“There’s an individual that asked me if I can receive a payment,” he said. “I have no idea what that payment is for. I received them as a favour for the person.”
After the meeting in his apartment, Reyes-Martinez did not respond to follow-up questions. Meta sent him a cease-and-desist letter on March 17, about two weeks after ProPublica contacted the company for comment on OBN’s activities and on the evidence connecting Reyes-Martinez to OBN. A spokesperson said Meta had banned him from its platforms but declined to share the letter.
OBN has said that he can take down verified accounts. “If you want someone smoked we talk 4 figures or nothing,” he wrote in his Telegram channel. In a separate post, he offered to create verified accounts for a $15,000 fee.
The thing is, OBN can’t deactivate accounts by himself; he needs Meta to do it, either by triggering its automated systems or by getting a worker to take action. He has often boasted of bribing workers at Instagram and Meta, which recently acknowledged firing or disciplining workers who took bribes to access user accounts. ProPublica could not identify any Meta workers who accepted bribes from OBN.
Understandably, some OBN victims have tried to hold Meta accountable. In late 2021, Tiara Johnson, a former adult performer who had more than 2.8 million Instagram followers when she lost her account, filed a breach of contract suit against Meta, which is pending in federal court. She said the company wrongly removed her account. Her suit includes screenshots of a conversation with OBN in which he says someone paid him $3,000 to ban her account. She then paid him the same amount to get it back, but he didn’t get it reactivated.
Kay Jenkins’ Instagram popularity helped her earn between $15,000 and $20,000 a month from sponsorships and OnlyFans subscriptions. But after she moved to Miami from her native Utah in March 2021, both her main Instagram account and her secondary accounts for her real estate and personal coaching businesses were repeatedly suspended. Months later, she learned by chance what had happened. In November 2021, she was a guest on “Fresh & Fit,” along with Celina Powell. Powell, who rose to fame by claiming to have slept with rappers and discussing the alleged affairs on hip-hop podcasts such as “No Jumper,” had recently given a shoutout to OBN. “I had the worst Christmas of my life, I contemplated slitting my wrists, I didn’t feel like living anymore,” Jenkins said.
Following Reyes-Martinez’s conversation with a ProPublica reporter in his North Las Vegas apartment, the @madetoomuchmoney Instagram account he said belonged to “Brandon” was deactivated. OBN blocked the reporter from his Twitter account and Telegram channel and announced he would no longer offer account banning as a service.
“I’m done with banning. If you mention anything about bans I’ll block you,” OBN wrote to his followers.
But he wanted people to know he was still in business.
“Only doing instagram claims & verification, and C&Ds only for high paying nothing less let’s work 🙏.”