Singaporean citizen charged with cybercrimes in Seattle
29-year-old Singaporean citizen, Ho Jun Jia, also known as Matthew Ho, is charged with a number of major federal crimes in Seattle and Washington D.C.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that between October 2017 and February 2018, when the popularity and value of cryptocurrency operations increased, Matthew "ran a large-scale cryptocurrency mining operation, propelled predominantly, if not exclusively, through fraud and identity theft".
Matthew Ho was taken into custody by the Singapore Police on 26 September. An investigation into the crimes committed is currently underway. The indictment describes Ho's activity as a "sophisticated fraud scheme". In addition, it states that "the essence of the scheme and artifice to defraud was to use stolen personal and financial information to open accounts in the names of others, without authorization, in order to obtain things of value, including computing and data storage services". The DOJ said the case is being investigated by the FBI Seattle Office's Cyber Crime Unit, with assistance from the Singapore Police Force - Technology Crime Investigation Branch, the Attorney General's Chambers of Singapore, the US DOJ's Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs, and the FBI Legal Attache Office.
Ho created units of cryptocurrency, then sold and exchanged them for regular currency. He used the stolen identity and credit card information of a well-known California video game developer to open accounts with numerous U.S. cloud service providers, which he used to extract cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoins and ethereum. The Attorney General noted that he is a "web of phony e-mail 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"
He created "a network of fake email accounts and used social engineering techniques to trick cloud computing providers into approving higher account privileges, increasing the computing power and memory capacity of the computer, and delaying billing," the secretary of justice said.
The DOJ commented on Matthew Ho's activities: "In the few months his scheme remained active, Ho consumed more than US$5 million (S$6.9 million) in unpaid cloud computing services with his mining operation and, for a brief period, was one of Amazon Web Services (AWS) largest consumers of data usage by volume". The department added, "Some of the bills were paid by the California game developer's financial staff before the fraud was detected".
In addition to his scheme, Ho also used the personal data of a Texas resident and founder of a technology company in India, opened cloud accounts with Google's cloud services, which he actively used as part of his cryptocurrency mining operation.
This type of fraud is punishable by 10 to 20 years of imprisonment. "Aggravated identity theft" would force the perpetrator to spend two years in prison after any other sentence in the case.
The Singapore Police stated that they were unable to comment on the case because Xo had already been charged in court.