A member of a phishing gang that stole financial information from thousands of people and used it to open credit accounts at Wal-Mart stores has pleaded guilty.
Tien "Tim" Truong Nguyen, from California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, access device fraud, aggravated identity theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm, the day before his case was set to go to trial.
Nguyen was arrested in 2007, accused of setting up Web sites designed to look like they belonged to banks and other firms like PayPal. He then sent out phishing e-mails directing victims to the sites, where they were asked to enter sensitive information.
The scam netted him, and Eastern European accomplices, thousands of credit and debit card numbers, social security numbers and other personal identification information.
Prosecutors say he then provided the information to third parties who used it to obtain "instant credit", issued by GE Capital, at kiosks in Wal-Mart stores in Northern California. Nguyen and others used the instant credit to buy gift cards and merchandise worth more than $200,000.
They also used the stolen data to make fake credit and debit cards to make fraudulent purchases.
Authorities say that on Nguyen's computer, they found traces of software related to phishing, tens of thousands of complete identities, and chat logs in which he and his co-conspirators discussed their crimes.
Nguyen is scheduled to be sentenced in November. A co-conspirator, Stefani Ruland is already serving a prison sentence, while another, Ryan Price, is awaiting trial.