Gonzalez gets 20 years for TJX credit card scam

Prosecutors called theft 'unparalleled'

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He is scheduled to be sentenced in the third case Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Gonzalez was indicted in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, with the cases eventually moved to the same federal court.

After reviewing the cases following established sentencing guidelines that take into account various factors, including the effects of the crimes, the DOJ sought the maximum agreed to under the plea deal in two cases and 20 years in the other.

Without that agreement in place, sentencing guidelines that consider previous crimes and the severity of these crimes would call for a maximum of life in prison.

However, Judge Saris said that with respect to the two cases in her court, she believes the 20-year sentences are "sufficient" to suit the crimes and also will send a message to would-be cybercriminals, who tend to be young adults, that they could spend much of their youth in prison if they are caught.

Saris was apparently moved by letters written by Gonzalez's loved ones, who described him as "interactive and loved and loving -- there is another side to your personality," she said of those accounts. "And yet when you read the [case] transcripts there's this macho glee" about the crimes he was committing, she added.

Furthermore, he "two-times" the Secret Service, "almost like a double agent," she said.

Defense attorney Martin Weinberg argued in court documents and again in court Thursday that Gonzalez should be sentenced to 15 years.

While the government referred to the cases as "identity theft," they were instead thefts of data that did not involve stealing victims' identities to "invade their bank accounts, withdraw money, and ruin their credit," according to a court filing, which Weinberg reiterated Thursday.

Furthermore, Gonzalez "did not hack into government computer systems, he did not crash computer systems by spreading viruses or inundating them with spam, and he did not invade the privacy of individuals' computers to steal such data as passwords to compromise their financial life and invade their personal property," Weinberg wrote in the court document.

The defense had further argued that Gonzalez was a substance-abusing Internet addict with Asperger's syndrome -- a form of autism -- at the time of his crimes, so he should merit fewer years in prison.

Also, one of the three unrelated cases cited by the DOJ in making its argument for longer sentences -- because there should be parity in sentencing similar crimes -- was much worse than what Gonzalez did, Weinberg said in the filing.

He added to that in court that some of the most egregious white-collar criminals in recent memory, who stole peoples' pensions and literally ruined lives, have not received sentences as long as 25 years.

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