SF man pleads guilty in Pa. to credit card scam
PITTSBURGH — A San Francisco man who allegedly had 1.8 million stolen bank and credit card numbers on computers at his California apartment has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for his role in an online clearinghouse where identity thieves could share stolen information.
Max Ray Vision, 36, who legally changed his last name from Butler, has been in custody since September 2007 when law enforcement officials raided the “safe house” apartment where he hacked into the computers of financial institutions to steal credit data.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke Dembosky said credit card companies Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover tracked more than $86 million in fraudulent purchases to the account numbers found on Vision’s computers.
Vision was charged in Pittsburgh because he sold more than 100 credit card numbers and related information to a western Pennsylvania resident who is cooperating with the investigation of www.cardersmarket.com.
About 4,500 people worldwide could trade or access stolen credit information on the Web site from 2005 until it was shut down in 2007.
Vision faces up to 60 years in prison when he’s sentenced Oct. 4, but his actual sentence will be driven largely by the actual losses banks incurred in the scheme, which has yet to be determined.
Federal public defender Michael Novara told Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice Cohill that Vision was a “hacker’s hacker,” meaning he sometimes broke into the computers of other hackers and took information.
Novara suggested some of the credit information on Vision’s computer was obtained that way and that Vision might not be responsible for financial losses related to those accounts.
“There’s a lot of stuff on his computer that he’s not responsible for and did not intend to use” criminally, Novara said.
Vision didn’t comment after the guilty plea to two counts of wire fraud. He had been indicted on a third wire fraud count, and two counts of transferring stolen identity information which will still be considered for sentencing purposes.
Novara issued a two-paragraph statement on his behalf calling it the “first step toward getting this sad chapter of his life behind him” and that Vision “regrets” his crimes.
“Max has always preferred using his extraordinary computer skills — his computer vision — for the good of society and the cyber world, and he hopes that he will be given the opportunity in the future to one again don the white hat,” the statement said.
Standing with his dark hair slicked back while wearing horned-rim glasses and an orange prison outfit, Vision was exceedingly polite as he answered questions during the 75-minute hearing. The hearing included a 30-minute session in which details of his sealed plea agreement were presented to Cohill in his chambers.
Dembosky and Novara aren’t permitted to speak about the sealed agreement, but plea agreements are often sealed when a defendant is cooperating in an ongoing investigation.
Dembosky said a co-defendant, identified only as Christopher Aragon, is in custody awaiting trial in Orange County, Calif. in a state prosecution. Dembosky said Aragon was available to testify had Vision gone to trial, but wouldn’t say if Vision will be testifying against Aragon.
Filed under Legal Proceedings, News | Tags: California, Computer Crime, fraud, Fraud And False Statements, Identity Theft, North America, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Technology Issues, Theft, United States, Us-pa-internet-credit-theft | Comment Below