A COMPUTER hacker struck up a 'stunningly simple' plan to make money, by breaking into an American pension firm's electronic systems and setting up payments into his own back account, a jury heard.

A jury heard that the 39-year-old defrauded the Los Angeles company out of more than £100,000 after setting up names with his personal bank details. It cost the firm another £200,000 to fix the damage he caused to their computer programmes.

A prosecutor told how Ernest Edjeren managed to access the Orange County Pension firm's computers from his home in Reading, Berks., with what he described as a stunningly simple cyber-crime.

It meant that four OAPs across the Atlantic were deprived of more than £100,000 of their pension funds after he used their names and switched bank details to his own.

The jury at Reading Crown Court was told that Edjeren attempted a digital scam that cost the Orange County Employees Retirement Scheme (OCERS) pensions fund almost £200,000 trying to fix, prosecutor John Ojakovoh told the jury.

The court heard that Edjeren used the virtual private network (VPN) WiTopia to disguise himself as four elderly pensioners and to digitally tunnel through to the victims computer entries in the Los Angeles county.

He would direct the victim’s payments into his own PayPal account hidden by the VPN over a period lasting from January 26 to June 12 2016, the prosecutor said.

The jury heard that elderly John Dedischew, William Collier, William Vinovich and Stanley Davidson were the victims of fraudulent accounts set up by Edjeren under a variety of usernames and email addresses.

When the OCERS IT department identified suspicious activity on these accounts, investigators from Orange County’s Sheriff’s Department reviewed the information and tracked the IP addresses used to commit fraudulent accounts, the prosecutor explained.

Investigators then managed to trace the true IP addresses hidden by the WiTopia VPN via BT in the UK, to an address in Reading, Berks..

Mr Ojakovoh said that officers armed with a warrant raided the home address at Balfour Drive, Calcot, Reading on September 1 2016, and found Edjeren sprawled naked across the bed in the main bedroom.

Judge Sarah Campbell heard he was arrested moments later and made no reply or comment to the caution and generally answered “no comment” in police interviews under caution.

However, he did describe his knowledge of computers and IT as “basic” in his first interview and said the case was “rather technical” in his second interview. He denied any knowing anything about the hacking, the jury of three women and nine men was told.

Edjeren sat silently in the dock dressed in a creased blue shirt and sandy coloured chinos and sat with a fixed frown throughout the prosecutors opening speech.

Mr Ojakovoh told the jury: “This is a case about cyber crime... and a cyber criminal.

“The crime in this case, an international one, was a fraud on pensioners who were living in the United States. The cyber criminal was this defendant, who The Crown says aimed to steal the money pensioners were relying on for their retirement.

“These were elderly public sector workers who had been employed by Orange County... who had since retired and were members of the Orange County Employees Retirement Scheme. To commit this crime, the defendant need not even leave the comfort of his own home.

From his home address in Reading, here on the other side of the Atlantic ocean and thousands of miles away from Orange County, the defendant sought to plunder these pensioner’s savings. But although some of the terms might sound complicated, this crime was stunningly simple in concept.

“It involved the defendant setting up online OCERS accounts in the names of genuine pensioners and then changing the pensioners’ payment details, to have their pension money paid to accounts controlled by the defendant rather than the rightful recipients.

“They had worked to earn this money in the expectation that it would help support them in their retirement.”

Edjeren was charged with one count of causing a computer to perform a function to secure/enable unauthorised access to progrmme/date, and three counts of fraud by false representation.

The defendant denies the charges, and the trial continues.