When California resident Michael Largent posed as cartoon characters from King of the Hill to pull of a laundering scam lifted from a Superman movie, he was unwittingly auditioning for a real-life role as a prison inmate.
The 23-year old Plumas Lake resident pled guilty in May to computer fraud, and faces up to five years in federal prison when he’s sentenced August 13.
Largent’s crime was likened to a “salami slicing” scam, depicted in films like Superman III and Office Space. He wrote a fake script that opened more than 58,000 online accounts at brokers such as E*Trade and Charles Schwab. He used fake names such as Hank Hill and Rusty Skackelford to open these accounts, and profited when the firms made tiny test deposits to ensure linkage to his account. The deposits were less than $2 and often as little as $0.01, but they added up to as much as $50,000, according to the Department of Justice.
“In this case it looks like the brokerages did their jobs reasonably well, though it does point out the big security holes in new account opening,” says Avivah Litan, a vp at Gartner. Litan says that in a case like this, a brokerage can use PC finger printing as a protective measure, since the crook probably used very few PCs to open the accounts. “Account opening is one of the weak spots for bank and brokerages, it’s very tough to verify identities as there are no silver bullet solutions here,” Litan says.
All in all, it was a good week for those who don’t like ID fraud. Prosecutors in New York indicted 18 people connected to an identity theft and fraud scheme used to seal about $1.4 million by bribing bank tellers to turn over personal and account information of the victims. And in the United Kingdom, an employee of Carter Allen Private Bank in Sheffield was caught trying to steal about $1.6 million after British police used a scouting handbook to crack the crook’s code. Ansir Khan, wrote stolen customer details in a code to avoid being caught. Khan gave these codes to accomplices who called the bank pretending to be customers requesting money transfers. British constable Chris Stephens, a former district commissioner in the Scouts, used the Scoutmaster’s A to Z handbook, published in 1958, to crack the code before matching symbols with victim details.