Obinna Obioha, 31, and a Nigerian hacker has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, and admitted to participating in a scheme to hack into computers and email accounts in the United States for the purpose of stealing money from American companies.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Vadim D. Thomas, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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. 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.
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. Obioha admitted that between January and September 2016, he was involved in at least 50 wire transfers, and that about $6.5 million was sent to the bank accounts that he and his associates controlled. The accounts received money from fraud victims in New York, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas, among other places.
Obioha was arrested on October 6, 2016, after flying from Lagos, Nigeria, to JFK International Airport. He has been in custody since that time. United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian 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.”
“The FBI plays the long game,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas. “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.” Obioha faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine, as well as the possibility of being ordered to pay restitution, when he is sentenced on July 26, 2017 by United States District Judge David N. Hurd. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Wayne A. Myers.