Albert Gonzales, 28, believed by police to be one of the nation’s largest cyber crime kingpins, was indicted Monday along with two Russian accomplices for the largest hacking/identity theft caper in U.S. history.
Federal prosecutors allege the trio stole data from 130 million credit and debit cards worldwide by hacking into the computer systems of major companies, including Hannaford Bros. supermarkets, 7-Eleven and Heartland Payment Systems Inc., a credit-card processing company between October 2006 and May 2008.
Monday’s federal indictment is the latest and largest in a five-year cyber crime spree that has taken Gonzalez in and out of federal custody. Initially detained in 2003, Gonzalez briefly served as a confidential informant to the Secret Service before he allegedly returned to bigger and bolder cyber crimes.
Gonzales has also been accused of leading the attacks behind a data breach that stole more than 40 million credit-card numbers from TJX Cos. recently, costing the parent company of the TJ Maxx retail chain about $200 million.
Gonzalez is currently awaiting trial for his alleged efforts hack the credit and debit card database of the national restaurant chain Dave and Buster’s, Inc. He will also face charges in Boston in the TJX matter.
Seth Kosto, an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey who specializes in computer fraud, described Gonzalez as “a very important player in a sophisticated ring that has real results at the street level of bank, retail, debit- and credit-card fraud.”
Wire fraud, which now falls into the category of cyber crime since wire transfers now use networks connected to the Internet, has exploded in recent years. According to the Treasury Department, of more than 55,000 incidents of wire fraud since 1998, more than half of them occurred in the past two years.