A Miami man this week admitted hacking into the networks of several VoIP providers between 2004 and 2006 and then reselling millions of stolen minutes.

Edwin Pena, 27, of Miami, yesterday pleaded guilty in a Newark, N.J. federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and wire fraud, and one count of wire fraud. Pena, who was returned to the US last fall after being a fugitive for three years, is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge Susan D. Wigenton on 14 May.

Pena, who faces up to 25 years in federal prison, continues to be held without bond.

"Anytime we bring a fugitive to justice, it's great," said Assistant US Attorney Erez Liebermann, who prosecuted the case. "This was a sophisticated and very profitable operation.This case sends a clear message to perpetrators that they can be caught and prosecuted, and to companies that there are steps they should be taking to secure their networks."

Between November 2004 to May 2006 Pena and a cohort - Robert Moore, 24, of Spokane, Wash. - hacked into the computer networks of multiple VoIP service providers and routed calls made by customers of Pena's VoIP service through them.

At his plea hearing this week, Pena, who had posed as a legitimate wholesaler of VoIP services as part of the scheme, admitted that he was able to offer cut-rate prices because he was routing them through hacked VoIP networks.

According to court records, Pena sold more than 10 million minutes of VoIP service that had been stolen from 15 telecommunications providers. Prosecutors valued the lost minutes at $1.4 million.

Prosecutors contend that Pena was the mastermind behind the scheme and that Moore hacked the systems.

In the fall of 2007, Moore pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and began serving a two-year prison sentence.

"We need to expose these new crimes and make companies aware of them," said Liebermann. "A number of companies reached out to me because they'd read about the case. They said it was a great lesson and they've since implemented security measures so he couldn't do the same thing to them."

Pena was first arrested in Florida on June 7, 2006. On June 29, 2006, he made a court appearance and was released on bail. While out on bail, he fled the country and was the focus of a three-year manhunt before being was arrested in Mexico on Feb. 6, 2009. Pena was returned to the US last October.

Voice-over-IP systems route telephone calls over the Internet or other IP-based networks.