Miami Hacker Pleads Guilty in Criminal Credit Card Scam

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Miami resident Albert Gonzalez pleaded guilty to 20 criminal counts of conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud and access device fraud and aggravated identify theft in the Federal District Court in Boston. Mr. Gonzalez’s sentence is not known at this time. However, the plea agreement that his lawyers reached with Federal prosecutors includes a proposed range from 15 to 25 years in Federal prison. His criminal sentence will be imposed on December 8, 2009.

This case is multijurisdictional as Gonzalez and his co-conspirators hacked into retailers in multiple states. Accordingly, while he has resolved the counts in Boston he is still facing charges Newark, New Jersey. Additionally, Gonzalez has already been convicted of in Brooklyn, New York where he faces up to 20 years in prison. By agreement between his attorneys and the Federal prosecutors in New York and Massachusetts, those two sentences are to run concurrently.

Gonzalez and his co-conspirators used computers to hack into major retailers such as BJ’s, Boston Market, Sports Authority and several others. Once there, they installed “sniffer programs” to capture packets containing credit and debit card information traveling over the retailers network.

Once consumers’ credit card numbers were known, Gonzalez sold them to other criminals who encoded the magnetic strips on phony credit and debit cards. In the course of this scheme they stole thousands upon thousands of dollars directly from ATM’s. As part of this plea agreement , Gonzalez will be forced to forfeit property that was gained in connection with this crime as well as paying restitution. That restitution includes a million dollars in U.S. currency that was buried in his back yard.

Gonzalez is alleged to have stolen in excess of 130 million credit and debit card numbers. The scope of this crime and multiple jurisdictions involved demonstrate why it is imperative for the Federal authorities to work together to investigate these crimes. However, it is not always clear which agency is responsible. For crimes of this nature both the FBI and the Secret Services, created from the treasury department, have jurisdiction. Often times it is exactly this uncertainty that prevents these complicated crimes from being investigated and prosecuted.

DOJ: Miami Man Pleads Guilty To Hacking US Retail Networks, By Chad Bray, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES, September 11, 2009