There once was a guy named Albert Gonzalez who dressed like a woman—but not because he got off on this, but because he wanted to conceal his actual appearance while he used a ream of phony cards to steal money from an ATM in 2003. A cop noticed the activity and didn’t quite buy the disguise.
The police officer nabbed the thin, disheveled Gonzalez, and it turned out he possessed a computer at his New Jersey home loaded with stolen card data. He was also a moderator for Shadowcrew.com, a site for cybercriminals on how to hone their skills.
Gonzalez wasn’t arrested, but instead, the 22-year-old, who was unfortunately a drug addict at the time, was so smart at his craft that he was hired by the Secret Service. They even paid his living expenses. Over time he got off drugs and looked healthier and became clean shaven.
With his help, the Secret Service caught over a dozen Shadowcrew members. Gonzalez then moved to his hometown of Miami, at the urging of his superiors, in the name of evading revengeful Shadowcrew members who might suspect him of being the leak to the government.
Gonzalez became a paid informant for the Secret Service in 2006. He spoke at conferences and seminars and was seemingly living the life.
But while he aided the Secret Service, he led a criminal team that cracked into 180 million payment-card accounts of major corporate databases, among them being Target, JCPenney, OfficeMax and TJ Maxx.
“The sheer extent of the human victimization caused by Gonzalez and his organization is unparalleled,” his chief prosecutor said. What a shame: A genius who used his talents to live a life of crime.
Gonzalez was sentenced to two consecutive 20-year terms, the longest for any U.S. cybercriminal.