[UPDATE 23 June 202: Ho Jun Jia was sentenced to 10 years' jail on Thursday (23 June).]
SINGAPORE — A Singaporean man who impersonated Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill to cheat over US$5.46 million worth of cloud computing services has been sentenced to 10 years' jail on Thursday (23 June).
Ho Jun Jia, 32, stole Merrill's credit card details from a forum on the dark web. He then researched more of Merrill's personal details and used them to register an account with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google. Between 2017 and 2018, Ho deceived AWS and Google into delivering services which he used to mine cryptocurrency.
Earlier this year, Ho pleaded guilty in a Singapore district court to 12 charges, mostly under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act. Ho also pleaded guilty to consuming methamphetamine and cheating charges.
Arguing before District Judge Brenda Tan in a hearing in May 2022, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ryan Lim described Ho's offences as “highly sophisticated and planned”, and the value of services cheated as “staggering”.
Ho found Merrill's details on the dark web after offering to forge US driving licenses on a forum in 2017. In return, the owner of the forum allowed him to access the “Staff/VIP” section, which contained details of the names, addresses and credit cards belonging to individuals, including Merrill.
Merrill is the also co-chairman of game developer Riot Games which is behind popular games such as League of Legends and Valorant.
Did his research into Merrill
As part of his plan to impersonate Merrill, Ho researched Merrill's background, set up an imitation email account and forged copies of Merrill's driving license. He then signed up for accounts on AWS and Google Cloud Platform as Merrill.
Through his deception, Ho acquired units of the cryptocurrency Ether and sold a portion for S$347,794.83. He spent the money and the remaining Ether units on personal expenses.
Having refunded the amounts charged to Merrill's credit card, AWS and Google ultimately received nothing for the services they provided.
Ho's lawyer, S S Dhillon of Dhillon and Panoo, sought seven-and-a-half years’ jail, citing his client's Adjustment Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as mitigating factors.
According to the lawyer, Ho suffered from Adjustment Disorder at the end of 2017 due to a friend's betrayal and his breakup with his girlfriend. This friend allegedly stole S$100,000 from Ho.
Dhillon wrote in his mitigation plea, “This is a pathetic case which deserves your honour's sympathy and consideration. Ho was first seen at the Institute of Mental Health’s Child Guidance Clinic in 2005 for conduct disorder and ADHD. It is most unfortunate that although the IQ test done in 2005 puts him in the top 30 per cent of ability, Ho left school at the end of Secondary 3.”
On hindsight, Ho wished he had “exercised extreme prudence and not be misled by what was taught by the online community and fall prey to their evil machinations”, added the lawyer.
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