On May 7, 2008, federal agents swept through the Miami area looking for evidence that one of their best informants was also one of the world’s biggest cyberthieves, says the Miami Herald. Searching three homes and a luxury hotel room, they found 14 computers, $400,000 in cash, six firearms, expensive jewelry — and even stumbled on a marijuana grow house. What they missed was the most compelling evidence in Albert Gonzalez’s life of crime: a three-foot drum buried in his parents’ backyard stuffed with $1.1 million wrapped in plastic bags. The money wasn’t unearthed until this year by federal agents still unraveling a case that continues to confound even the most seasoned cyberspace investigators.
Federal agents say Gonzalez orchestrated the largest credit-card heist in the nation’s history. The charges against Gonzalez, who was indicted last week, exposed major security breakdowns at credit-card processors and dealt an embarrassing blow to federal agents paying him to help catch other cyberthieves. The case also offers a glimpse into the intricate network of cybercriminals who reach across continents to buy and sell vast amounts of credit-card data on the worldwide black market. The Herald traces Gonzalez’ cybercrime roots.