A Nigerian hacker arraigned in a United States court has admitted to stealing $6.5m through wire fraud.
The man, identified as Obinna Obioha, was arrested on October 6, 2016, by American authorities upon arrival at JFK from Lagos and has been held in custody ever since.
He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and admitted to participating in a scheme, while in Nigeria, to hack into computers and email accounts in the US for the purpose of stealing money from American companies.
As part of his guilty plea, the Nigerian hacker also admitted to hacking into computers and email accounts used by dozens of other victims around the world.
The participants in the scheme monitored the victims’ information to identify imminent commercial and financial transactions. They went on to create fake email addresses that appeared similar to the victims’ legitimate email addresses.
The 31-year-old and his associates then used those bogus addresses to send fraudulent invoices to the unsuspecting victims, instructing them to wire funds to their bank accounts. The victims would go ahead, thinking the payments were for actual deals that had been previously negotiated.
Obioha admitted that between January and September 2016, he was involved in at least 50 wire transfers, culminating to about $6.5 million in bank accounts in which he and his associates controlled.
The accounts received money from fraud victims in New York, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas, among other places.
United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian who made the announcement said:
“Foreign criminal enterprises prey upon American businesses and are using increasingly sophisticated means to do so, as demonstrated by this scheme. Obioha’s apprehension and conviction is a reminder that foreign nationals targeting American businesses cannot operate with impunity and that the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies is global.”
His counterpart in charge in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent Vadim D. Thomas said:
“The FBI plays the long game. Today’s plea is proof that no matter how distant justice may seem, no matter where criminal enterprises may operate, the FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to securing justice for our businesses and communities.”
Mr. Obioha now faces a 20-year prison sentence as well as the maximum $250,000 fine. He may also be ordered to pay restitution, when he is sentenced on July 26, 2017.