US corporate hacker pleads guilty
Boston, December 30, 2009
A 28-year-old college dropout pleaded guilty in a Boston court to charges that he stole tens of millions of payment card numbers by breaking into corporate computer systems.
Albert Gonzalez told a federal judge in Boston that he engineered electronic heists at companies including payment card processor Heartland Payment Systems, 7-Eleven and the Hannaford chain of New England grocery stores.
Gonzalez has previously pleaded guilty to computer break-ins at retailers TJX Cos, BJ's Wholesale Club Inc and Barnes & Noble.
He faces 17 to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in March in the largest case of identity theft in US history.
The two judges responsible for doling out the punishment have considerable leeway in sentencing.
'You face a considerable amount of time in jail as a result of your plea,' US district Judge Douglas Woodlock told Gonzalez. 'All aspects of your life are to be affected.'
Gonzalez's attorney, Martin Weinberg, has asked for the judges to be lenient, saying his client suffers from Internet addiction, drug abuse and symptoms of a mild form of autism known as Asperger syndrome.
Gonzalez, who appeared in court wearing a beige prison uniform, told the judge that he had abused alcohol and illegal drugs for years. He mentioned marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ketamine and hallucinogenic mushrooms.
'It's one of the reasons to explain why a young man in his 20s did these things,' Weinberg said.
A psychiatrist hired by Gonzalez has told the court that the hacker's criminal behavior 'was consistent with the description of the Asperger's disorder.' Prosecutors have petitioned the court to perform their own psychiatric evaluation of Gonzalez.
Weinberg has sought to block that request, saying it is unprecedented to conduct a psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing.
'He's admitted responsibility. He is remorseful,' Weinberg said.
A US federal court in Boston last week sentenced one of Gonzalez's conspirators, Stephen Watt of New York, to two years in prison for developing the software used to capture payment card data. It also ordered him to pay $171.5 million in restitution. – Reuters
More INTERNATIONAL NEWS Stories
- Cameron pushes for travel bans on Russian MPs
- Indian coastguards join Malaysia jet search
- Confusion as search for lost jet spreads
- Military denies lost plane's flight to Malacca
- Investors monitoring Pimco after internal strife
- N Korea tanker ‘leaves Libya rebel port carrying oil’
- Malaysia plane incident not terror related: Interpol
- Crimea closes air space to commercial flights
- Missing Malaysian plane last seen At Malacca Strait
- Stolen passport holder on missing plane is Iranian
- China deploys 10 satellites to search for Malaysia jet
- Libya says halts tanker outside port; rebels deny it
- Libya orders military force to 'liberate' ports
- Big bananas: Chiquita, Fyffes merge
- Radar sweeps, dozens of aircraft, but no sign of plane
- N Korea tanker loads oil at Libya rebel port
- Gold drops as US growth optimism weighs
- Merkel raps Putin; Russia tightens grip on Crimea
- World 'at sea' over missing Malaysian jetliner
- Passports requiring probe were on Malaysia flight
- 40 killed in Yemen as Houthi fighters near capital
- Vietnam finds object in sea; search on
- $5bn poll spend to boost India economy
- Libya authorises use of force against Korean tanker
- Ukraine PM says he will go to US to discuss crisis
- Syrian journalist killed covering fighting
- Malaysian jet may have turned back before vanishing
- No sign of missing plane; Malaysia probes false passports
- Two Europeans not on board 'missing' Malaysian jet
- China draws red line on North Korea