Three men have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to hack into computer networks of major U.S. retail and financial organizations and stealing data related to more than 130 million credit and debit cards.
Prosecutors called it the largest credit and debit card data breach ever charged in the United States.
Albert Gonzales, 28, of Miami and two unnamed co-conspirators were charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and accused of using a sophisticated hacking technique that tries to find a way around a computer network’s firewall to steal credit and debit card information. Among the corporate victims named in the indictment are Heartland Payment Systems Inc., a New Jersey card payment processor; 7-Eleven Inc.; and Hannaford Brothers Co., a Maine supermarket chain.
If convicted, Gonzales, who is in federal custody, faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud conspiracy charge and five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and fines of $250,000 for each charge.
According to the indictment, Gonzales and his alleged co-conspirators started in October 2006 to penetrate computer networks and steal credit and debit card data, then sent the data to computer servers they operated in California, Illinois, Latvia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
The indictment also says the three used sophisticated techniques to avoid detection by antivirus software.