A 31-year-old Nigeria man on Monday, April 17, admitted in federal court Monday his participation in a scheme to hack into computers and email accounts, and steal roughly $6.5 million from American companies last year.
Obinna Obioha pleaded guilty to wire fraud and now faces 20 years in prison.
“As part of his guilty plea, Obioha admitted that, while in Nigeria, he worked with others to hack into computers and email accounts used by dozens of victims in the United States and around the world,” U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Vadim D. Thomas, special agent in charge of the Albany field office of the FBI, announced in a news release.
“After monitoring victims’ information to identify imminent commercial transactions, Obioha and his associates created knockoff email addresses that appeared similar to — but varied slightly from — victims’ legitimate email addresses,” the statement said.
“Obioha and his associates then used those bogus email accounts to send fraudulent invoices to victims, instructing them to wire funds to bank accounts controlled by Obioha and his associates, under the pretense that the wires were payments for actual deals that had been previously negotiated by the victims,” federal prosecutors said.
Obioha admitted he was involved in at least 50 wire transfers between January 2016 and September 2016. During that time, about $6.5 million went to bank accounts that Obioha and his associates controlled.
“The accounts received money from fraud victims in New York, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas, among other places,” federal prosecutors said in the release.
Obioha was arrested Oct. 6, after he flew from Lagos, Nigeria, to JFK International Airport. He has been in custody since then.
Obioha faces up to 20 years in prison, a maximum $250,000 fine and the possibility of being ordered to pay restitution. U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd is scheduled to sentence Obioha July 26.
“Foreign criminal enterprises prey upon American businesses and are using increasingly sophisticated means to do so, as demonstrated by this scheme,” Hartunian said after Obioha pleaded guilty.
“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.” he added.