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Credit Card Hacker Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

March 26, 2010

The mastermind of one of the largest credit and debit card hacking schemes in American history has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Albert Gonzalez, 28, launched a global cybercrime ring that targeted more than 250 businesses and financial institutions, including 7-Eleven Inc., TJX Cos Inc, BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc., Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, Dave & Buster’s, The Sports Authority, and Hannaford Brothers Co. Inc.

His actions led to the theft of over 130 credit and debit card numbers from those businesses, causing damages of more than $200 million to his victims while also stealing an undisclosed amount of money from individuals.

In September 2009, Gonzalez, a Cuban immigrant, pleaded guilty to the charges in multiple cases related to his actions, and on Thursday, Boston Judge Patti Saris delivered what former Justice Department computer crimes director Mark Rasch called the harshest sentence ever handed down in a U.S. Court for a computer-related criminal proceeding.

“I have read many letters from people who love you. However I have also read of your macho glee on how you can beat the system,” the judge said during the sentencing. “I need to send a message balancing everything, considering the huge corporate cost at the high end, and also if you do seem remorseful and you did give up the one million (dollars) buried in your parents backyard.”

Gonzalez had asked for leniency, claiming that he was addicted to computer use, had previously abused drugs and alcohol, and had suffered from an autistic-like condition known as Asperger’s syndrome. Prosecutors, on the other hand, claimed that no such diagnosis had been confirmed by medical experts, and had pushed for a minimum 25-year prison term.

Gonzalez still faces sentencing in two additional court cases on Friday.

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