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TJX breach suspect pleads guilty in Massachusetts
BOSTON (9/15/09)--A Miami man who allegedly masterminded the Heartland Payment Systems and TJX Cos. breaches, which involved hacking activity and credit card fraud, pleaded guilty to charges Friday in the U.S. District Court in Boston. Albert Gonzalez, 28, pleaded guilty to 19 counts of computer fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and other charges for his involvement in breaches that affected major U.S. retailers, including TJX, OfficeMax, Barnes & Noble, and Boston Market, according to the Department of Justice. According to indictments, Gonzalez and his co-conspirators broke into retail credit card payment systems through a series of techniques including “wardriving” and installing sniffer programs to capture credit and debit card numbers at retail stores. Wardriving involves driving in a car with a laptop computer looking for accessible wireless computer networks of retailers. With these techniques, Gonzalez and his co-conspirators could steal more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers from retailers and sell the numbers. They also 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, according to the indictments. Gonzalez faces a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 25 years in prison. He also faces a fine of up to twice the victims’ pecuniary loss or $250,000, whichever is greatest, per count. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 8. Earlier, he pleaded guilty to charges in New York for wire fraud in relation to hacks of the Dave & Buster’s restaurant chain. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for the New York case. Gonzalez also remains under indictment for charges brought in August 2009 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for conspiring to hack into the computer networks of Heartland Payment Systems and Hannaford Brothers Co. Hundreds of credit unions were affected by the breaches because they were forced to replace many of their members’ credit and debit cards whose numbers were exposed as a result of the breaches.
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