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International hacker buried $1m in backyard

Albert Gonzalez fortune forfeited

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The international hacker who confessed to stealing tens of millions of payment card numbers amassed a fortune worth more than $2.7m, including more than $1m in cash buried in his backyard in Miami.

Albert "Segvec" Gonzalez agreed to forfeit the ill-gotten booty in a guilty plea that was formally entered in federal court in Boston on Friday. It settles two of three pending cases, including one that accused him of hacking into computer networks operated by TJX Companies, Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, and other companies and making off with data for more than 40 million cards.

The agreement also settles separate charges brought in Brooklyn federal court accusing Gonzalez of stealing card details from servers operated by the Dave & Buster's restaurant chain.

Separate charges are still pending that allege Gonzalez stole an additional 130 million card numbers maintained by Heartland Payment Systems and four other companies. A federal prosecutor in New Jersey, where that case was brought, and a defense attorney representing Gonzalez both declined to comment on the status of that case.

The defense attorney, Rene Palomino Jr., has said that a separate individual named Damon Patrick Toey was the ringleader in the outstanding case, not Gonzalez, as claimed in a federal indictment.

Other items being surrendered as a result of Friday's guilty plea include a Miami condominium, a 2006 BMW 330i, a Tiffany diamond ring and four Rolex watches. Over the past couple years, authorities have seized sundry other items including a Glock 27 firearm with ammunition, a currency counter and a variety of computer gear.

He will be ordered to pay a fine of at least $250,000 and face between 15 and 25 year in federal prison to settle charges brought in Boston. Gonzalez, who was once an informant in a Secret Service investigation into payment card fraud, faces a maximum of 20 years for the charges brought in Brooklyn, which would be served concurrently.

In all, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to 20 felonies, including conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. In some instances, he breached his targets by driving outside stores and sniffing for vulnerable wireless networks. Once inside their networks, he stole the payment card data and passed it on to associates, who used it to make millions of dollars worth of withdrawals from automatic teller machines.

In other cases, the numbers were used to create fraudulent cards. They laundered the proceeds using anonymous internet-based currencies that were funneled to bank accounts located in Eastern Europe.

Gonzalez has been in custody since he was arrested in 2008. Sentencing has been scheduled for December 8. ®

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