Guilty plea in $700,000 phishing case

Guilty plea in $700,000 phishing case

A Romanian man has pleaded guilty in a US court to charges related to a phishing scam that saw him defraud over 7000 victims of around $700,000.

Sergiu Daniel Popa, 22, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Minneapolis to one count of possession of 15 or more "unauthorised access devices" and one count of aggravated identity theft.

According to a statement from United States Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota, between June 2000 and February 2007 Popa maintained two e-mail accounts which he used to harvest, via a phishing scheme, personal and financial information.

Popa - who lived in New York and Michigan - managed to steal names, addresses, bank account and credit card numbers and social security details.

In the plea, Popa also admits offering to sell stolen personal information.

The FBI says it began investigating Popa in January 2005 and he was indicted in June 2007 before being extradited from Spain this June.

During a search at his residence police recovered a machine for imprinting graphics on blank white cards and foil ribbons for making holographics that appear on ID and credit cards. Police also found partially created false credit cards and drivers' licences.

Popa admits that he knowingly possessed with intent to defraud, names and credit card and personal identification numbers for approximately 21 individuals. He also admits he committed aggravated identity theft by "knowingly possessing without lawful authority a means of identification of another person"

He faces up to ten years on the credit card number possession count and a minimum penalty of two years on the identity theft count. Sentencing will be determined at a later date.

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