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Computer hacker sentenced to twenty years for credit card fraud

March 29, 2010

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The man behind the largest credit card fraudin the history of the United States received a twenty year prison sentence for two separate cases in federal court. Alberto Gonzalez appeared before a United States District Judge in Boston regarding cases out of Massachusetts and New York. He previously entered guilty pleas in the two cases to charges alleging that he stole credit card numbers by breaking into several retail stores' computer systems. The hacker allegedly was the catalyst to losses exceeding $200 million suffered by retailers, banks and insurance companies. Gonzalez appeared in court with his criminal attorneyfor his sentencing hearing.

At the sentencing hearing, he apologized to his parents, family and court blaming his crimes on his internet addiction. His apology did not persuade the judge to sentence him lightly for one of the greatest internet crimes in this country's history. Based on the federal investigation, it appears that his addiction to money was greater than his addiction to computers and the internet as he used his $2.8 million in illegal gains to purchase a condominium in Miami, Rolex watches, jewelry and a car.

Gonzalez and two other individuals perpetrated the fraud by traveling up and down US1 in Miami using a laptop computer to hack into various retailers' computers via wireless internet signals. Sniffer programs were used to steal credit card and debit card numbers from the servers. After the numbers were obtained, they were sold overseas. The twenty year sentence handed down by the federal judge is the most severe sentence handed for a computer crime in the history of the United States. The judge set another sentencing hearing to determine the amount of restitution Gonzalez will be ordered to repay. The plea agreements require restitution in the amount between $2.7 and $2.8 million, however is unlikely that the majority of that money will ever be repaid. He is also required to forfeit assets including the condominium, car and jewelry he obtained with the ill-gotten gains. Gonzalez is scheduled to appear in federal court to enter a plea to a similar type of case.

Gonzalez has a long history of internet fraud dating back to 1998 when he was arrested for using computers at South Miami High School to fraudulently obtain credit card numbers. As a result of the arrest, as part as his plea agreement, agreed to work as a confidential informant ("CI") and assist the federal government to capture individuals involved in a cyber-theft ring. While assisting in that investigation, Gonzalez was hacking into retail stores such as TJ Max, Office Max, Dave and Buster's and Seven Eleven and committing internet credit card fraud. Although Gonzalez received two twenty year prison sentences for each case, the federal judge handed down concurrent sentences. That means that Gonzalez will only serve twenty years, as opposed to forty years if the judge had sentenced him concurrently. It remains to be seen whether Gonzalez receives a concurrent or consecutive sentence on his third case which is based on an internet credit card fraud case out of New Jersey

With the age of the internet and the increased usage of credit cards, the number of computer crimes involving credit card fraud has increased exponentially. The FBI and Secret Service spend large numbers of man hours and money in an effort to curb this somewhat modern crime. If you or someone you know has been arrested and indicted in federal court for credit card or internet fraud, contact an experienced criminal defense law firm to defend your case.

Miami Hacker Gets 20 Years for Massive Credit Card Theft, The Miami Herald, March 2010.
Categories: Fraud
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