NEW YORK CITY — A Lithuanian businessman extradited to the United States to face charges that he duped Google and Facebook into sending him over $100 million was held without bail Thursday, hours after he was brought to the country.
Evaldas Rimasauskas, 48, of Vilnius, Lithuania, pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. He arrived in New York Wednesday night after failing to block extradition from Lithuania, where he was arrested in March.
U.S. prosecutors, continuing a policy of treating large corporations like human crime victims, did not identify the companies in court documents. But they were named in a Lithuanian court document, which said Google sent over $23 million and Facebook sent nearly $100 million to bank accounts controlled by Rimasauskas between 2013 and 2015.
Google, of Mountain View, California, said in a statement that it detected the fraud, alerted authorities and has recouped its money. Facebook, of Menlo Park, California, declined comment, though it has said before that it recovered most of the money soon after the fraud was discovered.
Robert Peabody, a lawyer for Rimasauskas, said outside court that the defense team will “make sure he gets a good defense.”
If convicted, Rimasauskas could face decades in prison, though most defendants in financial fraud cases spend much shorter amounts of time incarcerated. If convicted of the aggravated identity theft charge, Rimasauskas would face a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.
Authorities say Rimasauskas, who owns a small construction company, fooled the companies into sending him money by posing as an Asian computer hardware manufacturer and sending along fraudulent invoices.
In a release at the time of Rimasauskas’ arrest, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said the 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.”
By Larry Neumeister / Associated Press