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Scammer who stole ex-NSA chief's identity pleads guilty to final count

Director of the National Security Agency Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, left, and Director of NSA Threat Operations Center William Marshall, center, give President Bush a tour of the National Security Agency in 2006 in Fort Meade, Md. (AP File Photo/Evan Vucci)

Carnell King has admitted to multiple counts of fraud and identity theft in federal court, and in so many words, he admits his biggest mistake was posing as the former head of the National Security Agency.

King last year pleaded guilty to four of the five counts leveled against him by federal prosecutors, including using personal information of former NSA Director Keith Alexander to get a counterfeit credit card and collecting a $9,000 tax refund that was due Alexander.

But until a change of plea hearing on Friday, King had balked at copping to a fifth count against him, of aggravated identity theft unrelated to the former NSA chief, because the charge was the only one that carried a mandatory two-year prison sentence.

“As far as this charge, I feel it was all malice and maliciousness,” King told U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, who had informed King that he might face more than a dozen years behind bars when he is sentenced in April.

“I felt like what I already pleaded to was enough. I think for the government this was kind of personal because of [NSA] Director Ken Alexander.”

But King did grudgingly plead guilty to the charge Friday, recognizing that prosecutors refused to budge.

Still, King’s attorney, John Beal, said Friday that his client had been overcharged, but stopped short of saying the reason was Alexander’s standing as the former head of the nation’s foreign intelligence gathering agency.

Beal said prosecutors so far have not provided their estimates of how much King netted in his scams, but said he believed the amounts were relatively small for a defendant facing more than a decade in prison.

King, Beal said, had no idea who Alexander was before FBI agents raided his home in the city’s Austin neighborhood.

Choosing Alexander as a victim “certainly appeared to get the government’s attention,” Beal said.

The fraud attempt was part of a bad period for Alexander, who resigned from the NSA in 2013 after a former contractor, Edward Snowden, made off with files showing the agency was conducting a massive program of data collection on American citizens, among other embarrassing disclosures.

Alexander mentioned he had been a victim of identity theft during a panel discussion on cyber security in Chicago last year, and told an audience at another public forum that he learned someone had claimed his tax refund in 2014.

The charges against King mention as many as 15 victims.