Nigerian arrested in US over ₦328 million fraudulent scheme
United States authorities have arrested a Nigerian for computer fraud in a scheme worth about $800,000 (₦328 million).
US Department of Justice (DoJ) in a statement said the Nigerian named Charles Onus was arrested for charges in connection with a scheme to conduct cyber intrusions of multiple user accounts maintained by a company that provides human resources and payroll services to employers across the United States, in order to steal payroll deposits.
DoJ said Onus was arrested on April 14, 2021, in San Francisco and detained. Onus was presented on Wednesday in Manhattan federal court before Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said, “Charles Onus allegedly participated in a scheme that stole nearly $1 million by hacking into a payroll processing company’s system to access user accounts and divert payroll to prepaid debit cards he controlled.
“As alleged, Onus did this as effectively as someone who commits bank burglary, but with no need for a blowtorch or bolt-cutters. Thanks to the FBI and IRS-CI, Onus is in custody and facing serious federal charges.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “Cyber intrusions ripple through everything our society relies upon – this one impacted people’s paychecks.
“The FBI’s goal is to prevent cybercriminals from causing harm and holding them accountable, but we can’t do it alone. Companies need to continuously improve their cyber hygiene and awareness.
“Taking steps like training the workforce to protect and frequently change passwords, and to use different login credentials across platforms, can have an impact. Each one of us, from the individual citizen to the biggest corporation, plays a critical role in defending the nation from cyberattacks.”
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen said the IRS Criminal Investigation will always work with the law enforcement partners to track down those who try to breach our country’s tax and financial infrastructure.
“We will continually endeavour to bring to justice criminals who think they can comfortably steal from victims in America while hiding behind their computer screens,” Larsen said.
Onus, according to DoJ, participated in a scheme to conduct cyber intrusions of multiple user accounts maintained by a company that provides human resources and payroll services to employers across the United States, in order to steal payroll deposits processed by the Company.
After Onus successfully gained unauthorized access to a Company user account, he changed the bank account information designated by the user of the account so that ONUS would receive the user’s payroll to a prepaid debit card that was under Onus’s control.
From at least in or about July 2017 through at least in or about 2018, at least approximately 5,500 company user accounts were compromised and more than approximately $800,000 in payroll funds were fraudulently diverted to prepaid debit cards, including those under the control of Onus. The compromised company user accounts were associated with employers whose payroll was processed by the company, including employers located in the Southern District of New York, according to DoJ.
Onus, 34, resident in Nigeria, risks a sentence of 10 years in prison.
One count of computer fraud for unauthorised access to a protected computer to further intended fraud, and one count of receipt of stolen money, each carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.