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California man sentenced in online brokerage scam

Prosecutors say man opened thousands of bogus brokerage accounts and stole micro deposits

A California man was sentenced to 15 months in prison for defrauding E-Trade Financial Corp., Charles Schwab & Co., and Google by opening thousands of fake brokerage accounts and stealing the micro deposits used by financial institutions to test new accounts.

Michael Largent, 22, of Plumas Lake, must also pay $200,073.44 in restitution for the fraudulent activity, the Department of Justice announced Thursday. Largent pleaded guilty to fraud charges in May.

Prosecutors said Largent wrote a computer program that allowed him to open or try to open more than 58,000 bogus brokerage accounts between November 2007 and May 2008. He then stole the micro deposits that companies like E-Trade and Charles Schwab make in order to test the functionality of a new account. In this case, the deposits ranged from one cent to two dollars, prosecutors said.

Largent used fake names, addresses and Social Security numbers to open the accounts, often in the names of cartoon characters, officials said. He transferred the deposits into his own bank account or onto prepaid debt cards to steal thousands of dollars, they said.

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