Sentencing is set for Oct. 10 for a Kenya man who has pleaded guilty to stealing almost $750,000 from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in a scheme in which a fraudulent email misdirected UCSD to send its computer payments elsewhere for five weeks in 2018.
Amil Hassan Raage, 48, was extradited from Kenya to face charges in U.S. District Court in San Diego for an elaborate scheme that redirected payments UCSD was making to Dell Marketing for computer equipment and professional services.
Raage faces up to 20 years in federal prison when Judge Gonzalo Curiel sentences him. Raage remains in the Metropolitan Correctional without bail.
"Modern criminals like Raage have ditched the ski mask and getaway vehicle and opted for a computer as their weapon of choice," said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer, Jr., in a press release.
"As this defendant has learned, we are matching wits with new-age thieves and successfully tracking them down and putting an end to their high-tech deception," said Brewer.
The U.S. attorney's office said what Raage did was engage in "a spear phishing scheme,” which involves an unwitting victim responding to a bogus email and revealing confidential information or paying money to fraudsters.
Court documents show that UCSD was able to get some of the money back, and their unrecovered loss is set at $362,692.40. Raage will be ordered to pay restitution.
The U.S. attorney's office said UCSD received the first bogus email on July 23, 2018, instructing them to redirect payments to Raage's bank account in Minnesota. The fraudulent account's email address closely resembled an actual Dell employee's real email address.
UCSD sent 28 payments to Raage from Aug. 7, 2018, until Sept. 12, 2018, totaling $749,158.37, according to court records. When UCSD learned of the fraud, it halted payments.
Raage set up a business checking account in the name of Go Truckline LLC at Wells Fargo Bank in Minnesota and was listed as its manager. His wife was listed as the registered agent from the firm, and the payments from UCSD went to the Go Truckline bank account.
"Criminals who operate in cyberspace falsely believe themselves to be beyond the reach of law enforcement, but they are sorely mistaken," said FBI Special Agent-in-charge Scott Brunner.
"Our agents will relentlessly pursue justice, aided by our foreign partners. Thank you to the Kenyan National Police and the Office of International Affairs for their invaluable assistance in bringing Mr. Raage before the bar of justice," said Brunner.
UCSD was the second university to be defrauded, as Raage committed a similar scheme on an undisclosed university in Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Court documents state the Pennsylvania university lost $123,643.77 to Raage's bank account in January 2018.
Raage's bank account was frozen, and he returned to Kenya in September 2018. Kenyan police arrested him on May 7, 2019, and he was extradited to the U.S. two weeks later. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in August.
Raage was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin, who cited a flight risk since Raage fled to Kenya in 2018. Dembin also denied bail because the weight of evidence was strong against him. No other co-defendants have been charged.