Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Hacker in massive ID theft pleads guilty

Albert Gonzalez plead guilty to charges related to the largest case of identity theft in U.S. history.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)

No power outlet? No problem
Unplug your adventures with off-the-grid gadgets.
Should the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit be extended beyond Nov. 30?
  • Yes
  • No

BOSTON (Reuters) -- The man accused of masterminding the largest identity theft in U.S. history agreed to plead guilty to related charges, according to court papers filed in Boston federal court Friday.

Albert Gonzalez is accused of helping to steal millions of credit card and debit card numbers from major U.S. retail chains, leading to tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent transactions.

A former government informant who is already in jail, Gonzalez, 28, agreed to plead guilty to 19 counts in Massachusetts by Sept. 11. The agreement also resolves charges pending in federal court in New York.

He also faces charges in a New Jersey federal court for a similar crime that is the largest in U.S. history. That case is not affected by the Boston plea, a spokesman at the U.S. District Court in New Jersey said.

A year ago, Gonzalez and 10 other people from five countries were charged with stealing 41 million credit and debit card numbers from retailers TJX Cos (TJX, Fortune 500)., BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. (BJ, Fortune 500), OfficeMax Inc (OMX, Fortune 500), Boston Market, Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS, Fortune 500), Sports Authority, Forever 21 and DSW Inc.

Then, on Aug. 17, Gonzalez was indicted yet again, in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, for stealing more than 130 million card numbers from credit-card processor Heartland Payment Systems and retail chains 7-Eleven Inc. and Hannaford Brothers Co.

His lawyer, Rene Palomino, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

When Gonzalez was first charged, authorities said that he drove around Miami with a laptop computer looking to hack into wireless networks at retail stores. When he found an open network, he collected and then sold account numbers, which were used to conduct tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent transactions.

"Albert Gonzalez was at the top of the heap in stealing credit card numbers and with him off the street people can breathe a huge sigh of relief," said Richard Smith, a principal at Boston Software Forensics, which conducts security audits. "This does not mean that the problem is eliminated. There are a lot of other people doing this in a less sophisticated way which is still very dangerous."

Officials at discount retailer TJX and bookseller Barnes & Noble were not immediately available for comment.

The case is U.S. v. Albert Gonzalez in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, No. 08-10223. To top of page

They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
Best cars for the super-rich The Robb Report has selected these as the best new cars and SUVs for anyone who doesn't have to worry about how much they spend. More
Banned! 10 things you won't find in China China says it wants to open its economy more to the rest of the world, but Beijing keeps a tight grip on technology and access to media. These 10 items are still off limits. More
A morning at the AltSchool, an education startup that Silicon Valley is crazy about The AltSchool is a system of "micro schools" and an education software maker that has raised about $133 million from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's philanthropic fund. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Copyright 2009 Reuters All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.