A 33-year-old man was sentenced Monday to a dozen years behind bars for hacking into the Los Angeles Superior Court computer system and using it to send millions of malicious phishing emails designed to retrieve employees’ banking information.
Oriyomi Sadiq Aloba was also ordered by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to pay restitution and a special assessment totaling $50,000, and to serve three years under supervised release following his 145-month federal prison term. However, the judge indicated that Aloba would probably face deportation proceedings immediately after prison.
Aloba was found guilty in July in Los Angeles of 27 federal counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, unauthorized access to a protected computer, and aggravated identity theft. The Katy, Texas, resident was taken into federal custody after the verdict was read.
Defense attorney Shaun Khojayan argued for a sentence of two years — the mandatory federal penalty for aggravated identity theft — plus one day, telling the judge that a 12-year sentence was “unreasonable” since court employees “lost not one dollar” from the attack.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan White countered that the Superior Court had, in fact, spent tens of thousands of dollars responding to Aloba’s hack.
The defendant knocked offline “the largest court system in the world — causing a substantial disruption,” the prosecutor said, adding that Aloba’s motive “was to steal banking credentials.”
Aloba and his co-conspirators targeted the court system in July 2017. During the attack, one employee’s email account was compromised and used to send an email to co-workers purporting to be from the file hosting service Dropbox. In fact, it was a phishing email that contained a link to a phishing website that asked for the users’ Superior Court email addresses and passwords.
Thousands of court employees received the Dropbox email and hundreds disclosed their email credentials to the attacker. Multiple employees’ emails then were used by the attacker to send out millions of phishing emails.
Aloba addressed the court in heavily accented English, denying guilt, blaming prosecutors for committing “fraud” and promising to appeal.
As a result of the attack, the court suffered monetary losses, including more than $45,000 in employee time paid to respond to the attack that would have otherwise been spent on ordinary work activities. Additionally, there were more than $15,000 in combined actual and intended losses to credit card victims, according to court documents.
Aloba was initially charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, but the matter was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution.
A co-defendant, Robert Nicholson, 28, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Aloba’s other three co-defendants remain at large outside the United States.
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