An East Liberty man who briefly gained access to the accounts of one of the country's richest men was sentenced today to eight months of incarceration, possibly in a halfway house.
Brandon Lee Price, 30, whose education didn't go beyond trade school and who was absent without leave from the Army, called Citibank two years ago and got access to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's accounts.
"I've been mystified in a certain respect as to how this could've happened by an ordinary, everyday guy," said U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry. "And I still don't know."
Assistant federal public defender Jay Finkelstein said that Price's effort to persuade Citibank to send to his East Liberty home a debit card tapping Mr. Allen's account "was not an elaborate scheme by somebody who had a serious plan."
He said the young man was depressed and suffering from lingering effects of head injuries sustained playing football, and then in the Army.
Assistant U.S. attorney James Wilson countered with Price's notebooks, which included nearly 20 pages of account numbers, phone numbers and "a script" outlining how he would talk with bank operators. Mr. Wilson said Price managed to get information on numerous accounts in Mr. Allen's portfolio, including one at the Bank of New York Mellon that contained $97 million.
Nonetheless, Price in the end got just $658 out of Mr. Allen's accounts.
He pleaded guilty to bank fraud and must repay the $658, plus face two years of probation after release. Judge McVerry released him on bond, requiring him to begin to serve his sentence by Jan. 6.
The judge accepted Mr. Wilson's motion to have Price's notebooks destroyed.
Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette,com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.