Singaporean charged in US for wire fraud and identity theft

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
PHOTO: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — A 29-year-old Singaporean man has been charged in the US for federal crimes related to a scheme to mine cryptocurrencies using stolen computing power and services, said the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday (10 October).

The stolen services were allegedly obtained with the stolen identity and credit card account information of California and Texas residents, said US Attorney Brian T. Moran in a statement.

Ho Jun Jia, a.k.a Matthew Ho was taken into custody by the Singapore Police Force on 26 September. Yahoo News Singapore understand that Ho is currently in the city-state and has been charged for offences under Singapore law.

According to the 14-count indictment in the US, Ho ran a large-scale cryptocurrency mining operation through fraud and identity theft between October 2017 and February 2018. He is alleged to have used the stolen identity and credit card information of a prominent California video-game developer to open cloud computing accounts at multiple US cloud service providers, which he then used to mine various cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.“

Ho created a web of phony email accounts and used social engineering techniques to trick cloud computing providers to approve heightened account privileges, increased computer processing power and storage, and deferred billing,” said the DOJ.

“Ho used the fraudulently obtained computing power to mine cryptocurrency – a resource-intensive process by which ‘miners’ essentially compete to verify blockchain transactions and receive an amount of cryptocurrency in return.”

During the period concerned, Ho is accused of using the identities of a Texas resident and the founder of a tech company in India. The cryptocurrencies mined were used or exchanged for traditional funds on various marketplace websites.

Ho allegedly consumed more than US$5 million in unpaid cloud computing services with his mining operations through Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Services. He was briefly one of AWS’ largest consumers of data usage by volume.

Under US law, wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Access device fraud carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, while aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory two years in prison.

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