A sophisticated computer hacker who allegedly participated in a conspiracy that netted more than 40 million credit and debit card accounts from at least nine corporations has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy charges in federal court in Boston, capping one of the largest-ever identity theft prosecutions, Justice Department officials said Friday.
Albert Gonzalez, 28, a Miami native and one-time Secret Service informant, is scheduled to plead guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts next month, according to a plea agreement filed Friday.
Several other co-defendants in the Boston case have already pleaded guilty for having roles in the cyberfraud conspiracy that struck several retailers including Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority and TJX Companies, which owns discount clothing stores T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. TJX has claimed in court papers that it incurred more than $130 million in losses stemming from the intrusion.
According to the plea agreement, Gonzalez will also plead guilty to similar charges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Gonzalez was indicted in New York in May 2008 for allegedly breaking into the computer system of Dave & Buster's restaurant chain. That case was scheduled to go to trial next month.
The deal does not mention any agreement regarding a third case filed Aug. 17 against Gonzalez in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Prosecutors in New Jersey allege Gonzalez and two unnamed Russian co-conspirators stole more than 130 million credit and debit cards from corporate victims that include 7-Eleven and Heartland Payment Systems, one of the country's largest credit and debit card processing companies.
In the Boston and New York prosecutions, Gonzalez agreed to a sentence between 15 and 25 years, according to the agreement filed Friday. The sentence will run concurrent to any sentence that is imposed in the pending case in New Jersey, according to court papers.
Prosecutors said a fine against Gonzalez will be determined at the time of his sentencing. His lawyer, Miami solo practitioner Rene Palomino Jr., was not immediately reached for comment. Local counsel in Boston for Gonzalez, Martin Weinberg, a solo practitioner, declined to comment.
Gonzalez agreed to forfeit assets that include more than $2.7 million, a condominium in Miami, a 2006 BMW, three Rolex watches and a Tiffany & Co. diamond ring he gave to a woman as a gift, court records show.
The prosecution of Gonzalez has been closely watched by defense lawyers and corporate attorneys given the sheer size of the cases, the involvement of Fortune 500 companies, and the extraordinary measures the government has taken to control its evidence.
Prosecutors fought for restrictions on what evidence Gonzalez and his legal team could see and required a record be kept of any material Gonzalez has looked at, claiming he might use it to commit other crimes.
The Justice Department and Secret Service even created new technology -- spending $150,000 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for a secure database -- to hold the billions of files containing names, passwords, account numbers and corporate network data that make up the bulk of electronic evidence being gathered in the case.