A Kenyan has pleaded guilty to fraudulently receiving Sh75 million from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in a computer phishing scheme.
Mr Amis Hassan Raage will be sentenced before US District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel on October 11, 2019.
He will be charged with conspiracy to commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Sections 1349 which attracts a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison.
On July 23, 2018, the UCSD received a spear phishing email from a fraudulent Dell email account instructing the institution to redirect its payments meant for Dell equipment and services to Raage’s Wells Fargo bank account in Minnesota, US.
Believing that the email was from a legitimate Dell employee, UCSD followed the instructions and redirected payment.
The email actually originated from one of Raage’s co-conspirators in Kenya. From August 8 through September 12, 2018, UCSD sent Raage 28 payments totalling $749,158.37.
Spear-phishing is when an unwitting victim responds to a bogus email, which the victim believes is from a trusted sender, and reveals confidential information to the fraudsters.
Each time UCSD wired money to Raage’s account, the suspect would promptly withdraw the money or transfer it to another account. When UCSD learned of the fraud, it halted payments.
Raage and his co-conspirators perpetrated a similar scheme on another university in Pennsylvania which also redirected its Dell payments to a bank account in Minnesota again controlled by Raage.
In January 2018, the Pennsylvania University wired six payments totalling $123,643.77 (Sh12,364,377) to Raage’s bank account before the university was alerted to the fraud and stopped payments.
After the bank froze Raage’s accounts, he fled to Kenya on September 22, 2018 but was arrested on May 7, 2019, and extradited back to the United States on May 23, 2019, to face prosecution for his involvement in the theft.
Spear phishing activity has been on the rise, especially for universities, local governments and other entities with procurement paperwork available on-line.