Albert Gonzalez was an informant whofooled both criminals and law enforcement.
He is expected to get out of prison in 2025,
when he’s 44 years old.
Albert Gonzalez was caught by police while he was "cashing out" – stealing money from ATM cards he’d made with stolen credit card numbers. To fool the camera, he was disguised in a women’s wig and a fake nose ring. At home, he had data on millions of stolen card accounts. The Secret Service recruited him to infiltrate Shadowcrew.com, an online site where criminals trafficked in stolen data and ways to scam others.
The agents won his trust in part by paying for his living expenses while they brought him to their side… "He could be very disarming, if you let your guard down. I was well aware that I was dealing with a master of social engineering and deception. But I never got the impression he was trying to deceive us."
Gonzalez’s gift for deception, however, is precisely what made him one of the most valuable cybercrime informants the government has ever had. After his help enabled officials to indict more than a dozen members of Shadowcrew, Gonzalez’s minders at the Secret Service urged him to move back to his hometown, Miami, for his own safety. (It was not hard for Shadowcrew users to figure out that the one significant figure among their ranks who hadn’t been arrested was probably the unnamed informant in court documents.) After aiding another investigation, he became a paid informant in the Secret Service field office in Miami in early 2006. Agent Michael was transferred to Miami, and he worked with Gonzalez on a series of investigations on which Gonzalez did such a good job that the agency asked him to speak at seminars and conferences. "I shook the hand of the head of the Secret Service," Gonzalez told me. "I gave a presentation to him." As far as the agency knew, that’s all he was doing. "It seemed he was trying to do the right thing," Agent Michael said.
He wasn’t. Over the course of several years, during much of which he worked for the government, Gonzalez and his crew of hackers and other affiliates gained access to roughly 180 million payment-card accounts from the customer databases of some of the most well known corporations in America…
Read the rest of the article, The Great Cyberheist, at The New York Times Magazine>>
Read as a single page here>>
Read a different article about Gonzalez and his crew at Rolling Stone magazine: Sex, Drugs, and the Biggest Cybercrime of All Time – The fast times & hard fall of three teenage friends with a knack for illegal code>>