'Soupnazi' Hacker Albert Gonzalez Gets 20 Years In Prison

A federal judge in Boston has just sentenced Miami hacker Albert Gonzalez to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing millions of credit card numbers, the AP reports.

The sentence wasn't the max Gonzalez faced -- the judge could have given him 25 years behind bars -- but it's still the longest term ever handed down for computer theft, Wired reports.

Gonzalez, who went by the online handles 'soupnazi,' 'cumbajohnny,' and 'segvec,' admitted that he led a ring of hackers  who made almost $3 million by stealing more than 41 million credit card numbers from national retail chains.

His case was all the more remarkable because he led the ring -- the largest ever busted, according to the feds -- while he was working covertly for the Secret Service, helping to bust other hackers. Gonzalez made $75,000 a year from the government as an informant, Wired reported this week.

Gonzalez's lawyers had argued that he was addicted to drugs, alcohol and the Internet. They also presented evidence that he suffered from Asperger's Syndrome.

But the judge apparently sided more with prosecutors, who argued that he deserved a hefty sentence as the leader "of the largest and most costly series of identity thefts in the nation's history."

Gonzalez still has another sentencing hearing tomorrow in Boston for three related cases filed in other states.  

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink