Computer Crime Research Center


Hacker pleads guilty in breach

Date: September 12, 2008

ederal prosecutors won a guilty plea yesterday from one of 11 men who made up a ring that was charged last month with the largest data theft case in history, involving tens of millions of customers of retailers, including TJX Cos. of Framingham and BJ's Wholesale Club of Natick.

Separately the government also said it has evidence the group breached the security of many more businesses than previously disclosed.

At a hearing in federal District Court in Boston yesterday afternoon, Damon Patrick Toey, 23, of Miami, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including wire fraud, credit card fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Prosecutors alleged he helped the accused ringleader, Albert Gonzalez, to break through the computer security of a number of retail stores in the Miami area.

Gonzalez himself appeared at a second hearing later in the day and pleaded not guilty to a set of similar charges.

Prosecutors said both men were key players in a loose-knit ring spanning countries from China to Ukraine that stole or trafficked in more than 40 million payment cards in all, causing more than $400 million in damages. The ring initially accessed customer data by using laptops to penetrate wireless networks of retail stores, from which they were able to access the companies' servers.

At the hearing for Toey yesterday, Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann elaborated on his role in the scheme. Toey first helped Gonzalez steal money from automated teller machines in the New York area in 2004, then became more involved in stealing and selling card data from vulnerable retail computer networks, according to Heymann and previous government filings. Last year he lived rent-free at Gonzalez' Miami condo, the government said.
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