PITTSBURGH - A Florida man pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a bogus hurricane Katrina relief website and several other sites that authorities said were meant to gather sensitive financial information from would-be donors.
Jovany Desir, 22, of Miami, entered the plea Friday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.
Authorities said the purported relief effort was said to be linked to an American Red Cross chapter in western Pennsylvania, and another bogus site mimicked the website for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank.
Desir created "phishing" websites over several months in 2005, authorities said. Phishing sites look like legitimate websites, but are bogus and meant to fool people into entering their personal financial information on the Internet.
Authorities said Desir sold the sites for $150 to would-be scammers who planned to use the financial information for identity theft and related crimes. Besides the Katrina and PNC sites, authorities said Desir created bogus sites for eBay, Paypal, and two Canadian financial institutions, Banque Nationale and Desjardins Credit Union.
About 56 people downloaded from the Katrina site, but the Banque Nationale site registered more than 8,500 "hits" by computer users. Prosecutors did not say whether anyone who accessed the sites lost money or otherwise had their financial information used illegally.
Desir, who is free on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced April 11.