Lithuanian man pleads guilty in $100M internet fraud case

A Lithuanian man who duped Google and Facebook into transferring over $100 million into accounts he controlled pleaded guilty to wire fraud Wednesday.

Evaldas Rimasauskas, 50, of Vilnius, Lithuania, entered the plea in federal court in Manhattan, where Judge George B. Daniels set a July 24 sentencing date.

The charge could carry as many as 30 years in prison and a fine of as much as $1 million or twice the crime's proceeds. The plea deal he reached with prosecutors said Rimasauskas faces almost certain deportation once he finishes behind bars.

Rimasauskas was extradited in August 2017 to New York from Lithuania after his arrest there in March 2017. He has been detained since.

According to court documents, Google sent over $23 million and Facebook nearly $100 million to bank accounts he controlled.

Google, of Mountain View, California, has said it has recouped its money. Facebook, of Menlo Park, California, has said it recovered most of its money.

According to a plea agreement, Rimasauskas has agreed to forfeit $49.7 million, including money in financial accounts in Cyprus and Latvia.

The plea agreement also recommends that he be sent to prison for at least nine years.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Rimasauskas devised "a blatant scheme to fleece U.S. companies out of $100 million, and then siphoned those funds to bank accounts around the globe."

"Rimasauskas thought he could hide behind a computer screen halfway across the world while he conducted his fraudulent scheme, but as he has learned, the arms of American justice are long, and he now faces significant time in a U.S. prison," Berman said.

In court, Rimasauskas said he carried out the scheme from October 2013 to October 2016.

Prosecutors said he created a company in Latvia that bore the same name as an Asian-based computer hardware manufacturer and then sent fraudulent phishing emails to Google and Facebook to steer money to his accounts that were supposed to go to the legitimate hardware company.

Once the money arrived, Rimasauskas transferred funds to bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary and Hong Kong, prosecutors said.

He then used forged invoices, contracts and letters to make it appear that executives at Facebook and Google had authorized the transactions, the government said.

"I fully understand these actions were fraudulent," Rimasauskas told Daniels through an interpreter.