WASHINGTON – A federal government worker faces up to 14 months in prison after admitting he stole colleagues' credit card numbers to hire prostitutes.
Shang Hsiung, a 54-year-old specialist in fuel cell technology for the Transportation Department, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of wire fraud.
Hsiung, of Takoma Park, Md., used counterfeit checks and stolen credit card information to pay for escort services while on official government business. He stole credit card numbers from his co-workers and from random victims whose receipts he obtained at restaurants.
The U.S. attorney's office said he racked up at least $39,000 in charges while on work-related travel beginning around January 2001 and ending in March 2006.
From his government phone, Hsiung called more than 100 escort services to set up dalliances. Sometimes he pretended to be the senior vice president of a publicly traded company and asked for an escort to show a good time to an Asian businessman — actually, Hsiung.
"Hsiung informed the escort services and escorts that it was important for the Asian businessman to be shown a good time so that the company could execute the deal," prosecutors said in court documents.
On one occasion Hsiung asked to be entertained for at least eight hours. On another, he used a $9,000 counterfeit check to pay two escorts. When the escort service discovered the check was counterfeit, they threatened legal action and Hsiung paid them from his own funds.
Hsiung's attorney, G. Allen Dale, said he hoped Hsiung would be sentenced to four months in prison. "We're hopeful that the judge is lenient," Dale said.
"He's a good man who has done a lot of good for the community, for students," Dale said. "He made a mistake, and he's in treatment. He's going to try to make sure he doesn't make the same mistake in the future."
Dale said Hsiung resigned from the Transportation Department after working there for 30 years. He had been placed on leave.
In a statement, the Transportation Department said it does not tolerate anyone who breaks the law.
"When that happens, we work closely with law enforcement officials to make sure the offender is dealt with swiftly and appropriately," the statement said.
Hsiung will be sentenced March 13.