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Government made me do it, imprisoned TJX hacker claims

Albert Gonzalez, who is serving a 20-year sentence, wants to reverse his guilty plea

April 8, 2011 08:09 PM ET

Computerworld - Convicted hacker Albert Gonzalez, who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to the massive hacks at TJX, Heartland and numerous retailers, now claims that he thought he was authorized and directed by the government to carry out the illegal activities.

In a petition filed last month, first reported by Wired, Gonzalez informed the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts that he would like to withdraw his guilty plea and asked the court to vacate its sentence.

In his 25-page petition, Gonzalez blamed his attorneys Martin Weinberg and Rene Palomino for not properly representing him or informing him about his defense options. Gonzalez also claimed that his lawyers did not appeal his sentence as he had asked them to.

Gonzalez was arrested in Miami in 2008 along with 10 other individuals on charges relating to the thefts at TJX, Dave & Busters, BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21 and DSW.

Later he was also charged with the break-ins at Heartland Payment Systems, Hannaford, 7-Eleven and two other unnamed retailers. Gonzalez was indicted in three different states, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey for his crimes. Prosecutors alleged that Gonzalez and his international gang of cyber criminals stole data on more than 130 million debit and credit cards over a multi-year period.

In Sept. 2009, Gonzalez, pleaded guilty to 20 counts of conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was sentenced to two concurrent 20 year terms by federal courts in Massachusetts and NJ.

In his petition, Gonzalez claims that all of the criminal activities that he admitted to in court were actually done with the full knowledge and the direction of the United States Secret Service.

As previously known, Gonzalez noted that he had begun working as a confidential informant for the Secret Service back in 2003 soon after he was busted in connection with a series of ATM thefts. Gonzalez claims that over the next several years, he helped the Secret Service infiltrate various carder gangs and hacking groups, leading to the arrests of many of them.

Gonzalez' petition details his interactions with two of his Secret Service handlers, who he claims treated him almost like another member of the agency and took him to different parts of the country for undercover work.

"The Agents had me infiltrating chat rooms setting people up and then the Agents would bust them," he offers as one example of the work he claims to have done for the government. "On one occasion I was taken to California for a week to help Agents there with undercover operation that resulted in arrests and convictions," Gonzalez said in his petition.



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