Lithuanian Court gives Green Light for Man to be extradited to the U.S. in Phishing Case
A local court in Vilnius, Lithuania on Monday approved for a businessman suspected of defrauding more than $100 million out of two major multinational tech companies, Google and Facebook in a cyber crime case to be extradited to the United States. Although the U.S. indictment failed to mention the names of the companies, Snieguole Uzdanaviciene, Rimasauskas’ attorney, said the firms thus Facebook and Google were mentioned in the U.S. extradition request.
In March, a U.S. indictment which was made public revealed that Evaldas Rimasauskas is charged with money laundering and wire fraud with each crime carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. An aggravated identity theft charge in addition also carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years. All these crimes are alleged to have taken place between 2013 to 2015.
The court ruled that Evaldas Rimasauskas must be sent to the U.S where he will be tried for wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. According to reports, he disguised himself as a member of the companies’ suppliers and also as an Asian computer hardware manufacturer and deceived them into accepting fraudulent invoices.
“Lithuania has a bilateral extradition agreement with the U.S. and this case meets all criteria,” judge Algimantas Valantinas told reporters. “The United States has launched an investigation into this crime, so the request to hand over this citizen of Lithuania was legitimate and motivated” he added.
Reports from the indictment suggest that Rimasauskas sent “fraudulent phishing emails” to employees; convincing them to transfer the money to a company he had set up in Latvia which had the same name as the manufacturer.
Google stated it had detected the fraud earlier and reported it to authorities.
“From half a world away, Evaldas Rimasauskas allegedly targeted multinational internet companies and tricked their agents and employees into wiring over $100 million to overseas bank accounts under his control,” Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. Attorney earlier this year said in a statement announcing the Justice Department indictment.
Rimasauskas has however denied the charges and could be in prison for a very long time if convicted. His lawyer Uzdanaviciene then stated that his client will appeal against the extradition to a higher court and that said his client “cannot expect a fair and impartial trial in the United States,” and also protested that the extradition request was missing some vital information. The court, however, dismissed these statements. Rimasauskas earlier appealed against an extradition ruling made in July.
“We are talking about a Lithuanian citizen,” Uzdanaviciene said, contending that Rimasauskas deserves to be tried in Lithuania, not the U.S. “Material presented to the court describes him as acting on Lithuanian territory, not elsewhere, and using means and tools which were within the territory of Lithuania.”
The judge who announced the ruling, Aiva Surviliene, however, maintained that she detected “enough evidence to think that Rimasauskas could have committed the deeds that he is accused of.”
According to a statement by the Lithuanian court, Rimasauskas allegedly swindled $23 million from Google and $99 million from Facebook.
The court went ahead to state that he and his co-conspirators were alleged to have posed as Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc., an established supplier for Google and Facebook. They then sent them an email persuading the two companies to send money owed to the manufacturer to accounts controlled by a Latvian company with the same name.
Google then transferred the money to an account at a bank in Latvia without any knowledge it was controlled by the fraudulent Latvian company, with Facebook also sending money to a similar account at a bank in Cyprus, the court stated.
Quanta later released a statement to reporters that, it had been “impersonated” as part of the fraud, but did not experience any financial damage from the incident.
Rimasauskas was held in custody since March at the request of U.S. prosecutors but that is about to change after the decision which is understood to be final. The date for the handover will be revealed later this month.
“This case should serve as a wake-up call to all companies – even the most sophisticated – that they too can be victims of phishing attacks by cyber criminals,” acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement in March. “And this arrest should serve as a warning to all cyber criminals that we will work to track them down, wherever they are, to hold them accountable.”