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DOJ indicts 3 in largest identity theft prosecution in US history

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday announced the indictment [text, PDF; press release] of three men accused of perpetrating the largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted in the US. Albert Gonzales and two unidentified Russian hackers are accused of stealing more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers by hacking into computer systems of companies including credit card payment processor Heartland Payment Systems, convenience store chain 7-Eleven, and supermarket chain Hannaford Brothers. Each of the accused is charged with conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. Acting US Attorney for the District of New Jersey Ralph Marra said [press release, PDF]:

This investigation marks the continued success of law enforcement in tracking down cutting edge hacking schemes committed by hackers working together across the globe. When companies make the decision to work with law enforcement and disclose a data breach at the earliest possible opportunity, it provides the best chance at apprehending a hacker and demonstrates that those corporate victims will actively defend their systems.

If convicted, the co-conspirators could each face up to 35 years in prison and more than $1.25 million in fines.

Gonzales is currently in federal custody, having been charged in May 2008 in the Eastern District of New York and in August 2008 in the District of Massachusetts in separate conspiracies. Gonzales is scheduled to go on trial in September 2009 on the New York charges [press release, PDF], which involve hacking into the computer system of a national restaurant chain. He is scheduled to go on trial in 2010 on the Massachusetts charges for other retail hacks and the theft of data involving 40 million credit cards. The DOJ prosecutes identity theft [DOJ backgrounder] and fraud cases under a variety of federal statutes and warns the public to be vigilant in order to avoid becoming a victim.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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