Man accused of cheating E-Trade, Schwab in 'penny-pinching' scheme

California man allegedly defrauded brokerages out of $50,000 in micro-deposits paid to tens of thousands of bogus accounts.

A California man may have figured out a novel way to make money at home with little effort, but the alleged penny-pinching scheme may land him in jail.

Michael Largent, of Plumas Lake, has been indicted on nine counts of fraud for allegedly creating thousands of accounts creating a script to open up more than 58,000 online brokerage accounts at E-Trade and Schwab.com using bogus information and aliases, including cartoon characters, Wired.com reported on Tuesday.

As is customary when new accounts are linked to bank accounts, the brokerages sent "micro-deposits"--anywhere from 1 cent to $2--to verify that the bank account number and routing data were accurate, which totaled about $50,000, according to the indictment. He then allegedly transferred the money to pre-paid debit cards.

According to Wired.com, Largent did not return repeated phone calls Tuesday.

Largent also is accused of defrauding Google Checkout out of more than $8,000, according to a Secret Service search warrant. He said he needed the money to pay off debts, the document says.

The brokerages became aware of the situation when they had to verify the identity of the account holders as required under the USA Patriot Act.

About the author

Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service, and the Associated Press. E-mail Elinor.

 

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