Hacker pleads guilty in massive credit card theft

Albert Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, pleaded guilty in a US District Court in Boston to 19 counts of conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department said.

It said the charges were related to hacks into major US retailers including TJX Companies, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes and Noble and Sports Authority.

Gonzalez also pleaded guilty in a separate case to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to hacks into the Dave and Buster’s restaurant chain, the Justice Department said.

Sentencing was set for December 8 and Gonzalez faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 25 years behind bars.

As part of a plea agreement, Gonzalez agreed to forfeit one million dollars which he had buried in a container in his backyard, a condo in Miami, a 2006 BMW 330i, a Tiffany diamond ring and Rolex watches.

According to the indictments, Gonzalez and unnamed co-conspirators broke into retail credit card payment systems using techniques such as “wardriving,” stealing more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers.

“Wardriving” involves driving around in a car with a laptop computer looking for accessible wireless computer networks of retailers.

“Gonzalez and his co-conspirators sold the numbers to others for their fraudulent use and engaged in ATM fraud by encoding the data on the magnetic stripes of blank cards and withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars at a time from ATMs,” the Justice Department said.

Gonzalez still faces charges in another credit card theft case in New Jersey which the Justice Department has described as the largest ever in the United States.

In that case, Gonzalez and two unidentified Russian co-conspirators are accused of stealing more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers from firms supporting major retail and financial organizations.

Targeted companies included Heartland Payment Systems, a New Jersey-based card payment processor; 7-Eleven Inc., a Texas-based nationwide conveniencestore chain; and Hannaford Brothers Co. Inc., a Maine-based supermarket chain.

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Hacker pleads guilty in massive credit card theft