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Guilty Plea for Man Behind Creative E-Trade Scam

A California man has pleaded guilty to opening tens of thousands of bogus online brokerage accounts and then pocketing tiny test deposits made by companies like E-Trade Financial and Charles Schwab.

Michael Largent, 23, of Plumas Lake, Calif. pleaded guilty Thursday to computer fraud charges in connection with the scam, which ran between November 2007 and May 2008.

Largent's arrest was widely covered on the Internet last May, where it was likened to so-called Salami Slicing scams depicted in movies such as Superman III and Office Spaces.

According to prosecutors, Largent wrote a script that opened more than 58,000 online accounts at instructions such as E-trade and Schwab. He used fake names, including cartoon monikers such as Hank Hill and Rusty Shackelford to open these accounts and then profited when the brokerage firms would make tiny test deposits to make sure they were linked to his account.

Typically these deposits were between $0.01 and $2 but they added up. In total he made or tried to make more than $50,000 in the scam, the Department of Justice said.

Largent is also alleged to have received more than $8,000 in micro-deposits from Google, although he was not charged with this in his May 22 indictment.

He is set to be sentenced on Aug. 13 and faces up to five years in federal prison on two computer fraud charges, a U.S. department of Justice spokeswoman said Thursday.

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