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FBI, DoJ indict Nigerian over $800,000 theft via payroll hack

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in collaboration with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) on Wednesday announced the arrest of a Nigerian, Charles Onus, over theft committed via payroll hacking.

This was contained in a joint statement issued by Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Jonathan D. Larsen, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”).

According to the FBI, Onus was nabbed “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.”

Onu’s criminal history was also detailed with the Bureau noting that he was previously arrested on April 14, 2021, in San Francisco.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe with Onu scheduled to stand trial in a Manhattan federal court before Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave.

In his remarks, 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. Thanks to the FBI and IRS-CI, Onus is in custody and facing serious federal charges.”

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FBI Assistant Director 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. Each one of us, from the individual citizen to the biggest corporation, plays a critical role in defending the nation from cyberattacks.”

“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,” the statement reads in part.

By Mayowa OLadeji

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