A California man was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to opening tens of thousands of bogus online brokerage accounts and then pocketing the tiny test deposits made by companies like E-Trade Financial and Charles Schwab.
Michael Largent, 22, of Plumas Lake, California, had pleaded guilty to two computer fraud charges in May. He had been facing a possible five-year prison sentence.
He will also pay US$200,000 in restitution to the banks and will be restricted from using computers and the Internet for three years following his release.
According to prosecutors, Largent wrote a program that opened more than 58,000 brokerage accounts. The goal was to steal the micro-deposits made by financial institutions when they link a new account to an existing bank account.
He set up the accounts using fake names, including Hank Hill and Rusty Shackelford, taken from Fox Broadcasting's TV series "King of the Hill." "When the deposits occurred, he would transfer the funds into his own bank accounts or onto prepaid debit cards," the U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday in a press release.
Typically these deposits were between $0.01 and $2, but they added up. In total, Largent tried to make more than US$50,000 in the scam, the Department of Justice said.
Largent's arrest was widely covered on the Internet last year, where it was likened to so-called "salami-slicing" scams depicted in movies such as "Superman III" and "Office Space." Salami slicing refers to stealing large amounts of money in many small, undetectable amounts.