Singaporean charged in US with identity theft and wire fraud; accused of taking meth, cybercrimes in Singapore

Singaporean charged in US with identity theft and wire fraud; accused of taking meth, cybercrimes in Singapore

computer cybercrime
A man using a laptop. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

SEATTLE: A Singaporean has been charged with 14 counts of wire fraud, access device fraud and identity theft in Seattle, documents released by the US Department of Justice on Wednesday (Oct 9) revealed. 

Ho Jun Jia, also known as Matthew Ho, 29, operated a scheme to mine cryptocurrencies using stolen computing power and services, obtained with the stolen identity and credit card account information of California and Texas residents.

Ho was taken into custody by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and is also being investigated for alleged offences committed under Singapore law.

He faces three charges here under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act as well as one of taking an illegal drug, court documents showed.

CRYPTOCURRENCY MINING OPERATION

US authorities said between October 2017 and February 2018, following a surge in popularity and the value of cryptocurrencies, Ho ran a cryptocurrency mining operation. 

Ho allegedly used stolen identity and credit card information of a "prominent California video-game developer" to open cloud computing accounts at multiple US cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services. 

The identities of a Texas resident and the founder of a tech company in India were also allegedly used to open cloud services accounts with Google Cloud Services.

He then used these accounts to mine various cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, which he subsequently sold on marketplace websites, said the DOJ.

Some of the bills incurred were paid by the California game developer’s financial staff before the fraud was detected.

Ho also allegedly used fake email accounts and "social engineering" in order to trick cloud computing providers to approve heightened account privileges, increased computer processing power and storage, and deferred billing.

According to the DOJ, for the duration of Ho's scheme, he consumed more than US$5 million in unpaid cloud computing services with his mining operation and, for a brief period, was one of Amazon Web Services' largest consumers of data usage by volume.

Ho was charged with eight counts of wire fraud, four counts of access device fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft related.  

In the US, Ho can be jailed for up to 20 years for wire fraud and up to 10 years for access device fraud. For aggravated identity theft, he can be jailed for a mandatory two-year period to run consecutive to any other sentence imposed in the case.

The case is being investigated by the FBI Seattle Office, Cyber Crime Unit, with assistance from the Singapore police's Technology Crime Investigation Branch, the Attorney General’s Chambers of Singapore, the US Department of Justice’s Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, and the FBI Legal Attaché Office, the release said.

CHARGED WITH TAKING METH, OTHER OFFENCES

In Singapore, Ho has been charged with taking methamphetamine and with other charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act.

He allegedly took methamphetamine on or before Jul 19 this year, according to charge sheets from Singapore authorities. 

Prior to this, Ho was admitted to Changi Drug Rehabilition Centre on Sep 6 last year for consuming meth, according to the charge sheet.

Ho is also accused of illicitly accessing the credit card account of a user called "Merillot" on the server of American Express and changing the user's e-mail address.

A fourth charge involves obtaining and keeping illicitly the name, address and credit card details of a man called Nicholas Ryan.

Ho was arrested and charged on Sep 26, police confirmed. He is set to return to court in Singapore on Oct 15.

Source: CNA/ic/nc(hm)

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