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A fraudster has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison after copping to a series of phishing scams that affected 7,000 victims and netted an estimated $700,000 in illicit income.

Sergiu Daniel Popa, 23, started his fraudulent activities almost nine years ago back in June 2000 when he was only 14 years-old, the Minneapolis Star Ledger reports.

Popa, who was originally from Romania, crafted scam emails that posed as messages from institutions such as SunTrust, Citibank and PayPal, in a bid to trick recipients into handing over login details to the bogus websites he created. The miscreant harvested names and addresses, bank account numbers, credit card and social security information as well as PIN codes from credulous marks.

Popa also ran a lucrative sideline selling phishing kits to other (less experienced) fraudsters for $1,500. These starter kits came with instructions on how to send spam email and manufacture counterfeit credit cards. These various scams ran from June 2000 until February 2007, when Popa was finally brought to book. He pleaded guilty last year, so the long prison term Popa received took some security watchers by surprise.

In sentencing, Judge John Tunheim said the long jail sentence he was imposing against Popa reflected the scope and longevity of his offences, as well as the many victims affected by his crimes. ®

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