A Venezuelan man pleaded guilty in New Jersey federal court on Wednesday to hacking into the networks of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) providers and reselling internet-based phone services for profit, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Edwin Pena, 26, of Venezuela pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and wire fraud, and one count of wire fraud, prosecutors said in a news release on Wednesday. He is scheduled to be sentenced on 14th May and faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
“This investigation highlights law enforcement's ability to undercover cutting-edge technology crimes and to reach perpetrators of such activity outside our borders and bring them to justice,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement.
Pena operated two companies that offered wholesale internet-based phone services, according to a criminal complaint and indictment.
At his plea hearing on Wednesday Pena admitted that he sold wholesale VoIP service for heavily discounted rates to unsuspecting customers. Instead of purchasing VoIP routes to resell, he hacked into the networks of legitimate VoIP service providers and routed his customer's traffic through the hacked networks, he admitted.
Pena is the first individual ever charged with hacking into VoIP networks and reselling services, prosecutors said. The investigation was carried out by FBI special agents, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Cruise in Newark, New Jersey, prosecutors said.
Pena was originally arrested for the hacking scheme in June 2006. After his arrest, he posted bail and fled the country to avoid prosecution. In October 2009, Pena was extradited to the United States from Mexico after a three-year manhunt, prosecutors said.
Pena's scheme resulted in more than $1.4 million in damages in less than a year, according to prosecutors. One New Jersey-based VoIP provider that Pena defrauded incurred $500,000 in charges for the unauthorised call traffic that was routed through its network.
To hide the huge profits from his hacking scheme, Pena purchased real estate, new cars and a 40-foot motorboat using the name of another individual, prosecutors said.