Federal investigators have disclosed lately that they have found more compelling evidence to prove the guilt of its one-time asset and informant, Albert Gonzalez. Gonzalez was arrested last year and indicted for defrauding thousands of cardholders and storing large amounts of cash.
In May of last year, federal agents raided three homes and a luxury hotel room in Florida and found 14 computers, six firearms, and $400,000 in cold cash. Investigators also discovered a small marijuana plot. Law enforcement officers also stumbled upon expensive jewelry during the searches.
Gonzalez was one of the Secret Service's foremost informant and asset when it came to cybercrimes. Unbeknownst to federal agents, he was also making use of the data he collected to hack into the systems of many credit companies and steal important information about millions of credit cardholders' accounts.
However, federal agents have discovered more compelling evidence about Gonzalez's crimes only this year. Investigators came upon a three-foot drum buried in his parent's backyard. When they opened the container, they were surprised to find some $1.1 million stuffed in plastic bags. The latest development came as a surprise to seasoned cybercrime investigators.
Gonzalez has allegedly stolen information from more than 41 million credit cards across the U.S. Recently, however, investigators are saying that he might have orchestrated an even larger crime, with three times the number of the original victims. Worse, Gonzalez pulled off the heists while on the Secret Service's payroll. There is also speculation that he made use of government resources and data to mastermind the credit card heists.
A master thief, Gonzalez hid his trail by using numerous fake names, fictitious identities, and secured hard disks distributed in many countries around the world. Using techniques he honed through many years of experience as a cyber thief and federal informant, Gonzalez methodically stripped off valuable information from millions of credit cards under the federal government's nose.
Security experts are calling the crime unprecedented, with some calling it "the heist of the century." Gonzalez's case has generated a lot of attention on credit card fraud and has unexpectedly exposed a weakness in the fraud prevention and protection policies of many card companies. The case has also allowed a glimpse into the lucrative black market for credit card date.
Even Gonzalez's legal counsel Rene Palomino Jr. admitted that his client was always ahead of investigators. Palomino said that most of the time, the federal government was unaware of what was happening, with Gonzalez's handlers usually in the dark.