Who says S’pore got no local talent? S’porean cheats Amazon and Google S$7.6M, jailed 10 years

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“Why go east Asia to hunt for talent?” asked Facebook user Janet Tan on the news that a Singaporean was able to deceive Amazon and Google into providing S$7.6 million worth of cloud services.

Members from the online community have since suggested that the man shouldn’t be put to jail but utilised in outsmarting scammers instead.

They were referring to 32-year-old Ho Jun Jia, also known as Matthew Ho, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on Thursday (Jun 23) for impersonating two others in deceiving Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google.

Channel News Asia reported that Ho got the personal details and credit card information of the two men from a Dark Web forum.

Ho forged United States driving licenses in 2017 on a Dark Web forum that called itself the “#1 Fraud Community.” He then gained access to the “VIP” section, which contained people’s names, addresses and credit card details.

One of the victims was the co-founder of video game developer Riot Games, Marc Merrill and another man named Harold Borland.

Ho used Mr Merrill’s AMEX bank account and linked it to an email he created before starting a new AWS user account with the victim’s credit card number.

Ho was in Singapore between Nov 4, 2017, and Jan 28, 2018, when he tricked AWS into delivering cloud computing services on at least 40 occasions.

He did the same with a Google Cloud Platform using the same details.

It was reported that the AWS and Google accounts were suspended following failed payment attempts. The companies have refunded the payments through AMEX.

However, Ho repeated the scheme using Mr Borland’s details.

Around the same period, he used computing power to mine about 1,468 units of cryptocurrency Ethereum.

He sold 203 units, making over S$347,000, which he spent on personal expenses.

Ho was arrested on Sept 29, 2019, by officers from the Technology Crime Investigation Branch.

He pleaded guilty to 12 charges in March, which included offences under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act and cheating by personation.

Another 14 charges were considered for sentencing.

His total sentence includes a jail term of three years and five months for consuming methamphetamine and another drug-related charge, reported CNA.

However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ryan Lim asked for at least 10 years imprisonment as Ho had enacted a highly sophisticated scheme done solely through the Internet.

“It is crucial that would-be criminals are strongly deterred from using the Internet as a cheap, convenient and effective means to commit crime,” he said, adding Ho’s offences threatened to undermine Singapore’s reputation as a financial and commercial hub.

Meanwhile, Defence lawyer S S Dhillon said that no “actual physical monies” were lost, as the two victims did not lose any money, although Amazon and Google did suffer a loss of revenue.

District Judge Brenda Tan noted the magnitude and sophistication of Ho’s offences.

“Through his deceptions, Mr Ho fraudulently obtained services worth a massive value of more than US$5.4 million, of which there has been no restitution or compensation,” she said.

Judge Tan granted Ho a one-month deferment to attend medical appointments at the Institute of Mental Health and address work commitments.

Ho is currently out on bail of S$180,000.

Netizens have commented on the news, highlighting Ho’s ingenuity. “So smart, our government should recruit him to head a special IT department!” said Facebook user Tay Benny.

“Jailed him for 10 years for what? He is so clever, you should ask him to work for 10 years to help the industries with his talent,” said Facebook user Alvin Chong.

“Ask him to help detect scammers etc. Ask him to trace all the bad guys and catch all the scammers. Ask him to use technology to trace phone scams, FB scams for 10 years. ‘Consult’ him to improve our resilience on technology,” he explained since Ho was able to deceive big companies like Amazon and Google.

Another netizen had the same sentiments. “He is a genius! Imagine using his talents as a countermeasure against our enemies.”

“Didn’t we set up a SAF division to handle tech threats? Rather than let him do nothing in jail, pass him to the SAF to do his time in camp. Use his massive talents there,” said Facebook user Eu Choon Leng./TISG

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