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Hacker Gets Record 20-Year Prison Term in $200M Credit- and Debit-Card Data Theft

Posted Mar 25, 2010 2:12 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: A 28-year-old computer mastermind who last year pleaded guilty in a case involving the theft of millions of credit and debit card numbers from retailers and a major credit card processor was sentenced to a 20-year prison term today by a federal court in Boston, reports the Threat Level blog of Wired.

It is the heftiest sentence ever imposed in a federal hacking or identity-theft case, according to the blog.

Albert Gonzalez, whose hack attack reportedly cost Massachusetts-based TJX Cos. and other victims including banks some $200 million, “was at the center of the largest and most costly series of identity thefts in the nation’s history,’’ federal prosecutors wrote in a recent filing, arguing for the maximum sentence of 25 years, the Boston Globe.

“He knowingly victimized a group of people whose population exceeded that of many major cities and some states—certainly millions upon millions, perhaps tens of millions,’’ the prosecutors contended.

But attorney Martin Weinberg, who represents Gonzalez, argued in court documents that his client stole only data, rather than ruining individuals' credit by impersonating them and invading their bank accounts, and said a sentence of more than 17 years would be excessive in light of how other white-collar criminals are routinely punished, the newspaper recounts.

Gonzalez also reportedly faces sentencing today and Friday in two other federal computer hacking cases. He allegedly avoided prison in an earlier theft case by working as an informant for the feds. A friend tells Wired that Gonzalez was paid $75,000 a year by the U.S. Secret Service to do so.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "11 Charged in Biggest ID Theft Case Ever"

ABAJournal.com: "Accused Record ID Theft Mastermind to Plead Guilty in 2 Earlier Cases, Feds Say"

ABAJournal.com: "Alleged Architect of Record Hack Attack is Computer Addict, His Lawyer Says"

Updated at 2:25 p.m. to include sentencing information from Threat Level.

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