Government made me do it, imprisoned TJX hacker claims

Albert Gonzalez, who is serving a 20-year sentence, wants to reverse his guilty plea

By , Computerworld |  Security, data protection, hacking

"The Agents had me infiltrating chat rooms setting people up and then the Agents would bust them," he offers as one example of the work he claims to have done for the government. "On one occasion I was taken to California for a week to help Agents there with undercover operation that resulted in arrests and convictions," Gonzalez said in his petition.

At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez said he firmly believed he was "authorized to engage in the cyber crimes I was participating in, in order to gather intelligence on National and International cyber criminals and I was doing my job to the best of my abilities," Gonzalez said. He said he was being paid $1,200 a month for his work.

According to Gonzalez, his illegal activities were done to establish trust with other cybercriminals so he could make contact with more of them and expose their acitivities to law enforcement.

Gonzalez said Palomino did not advise him of the availability of the "Public Authority" defense that he could have used to defend his actions. Under the public authority defense, any individual who is "acting under the actual or believed exercise of public authority on behalf of a law enforcement agency" can claim immunity against illegal conduct arising from his actions, Gonzalez said in his petition.

Gonzalez also asked for his guilty pleas to be withdrawn. According to him, the only reason he pleaded guilty to the indictments in all three states was because his attorney and prosecutors told him he would benefit by doing so. Gonzalez claims in his petition that he was informed if he agreed to plead guilty to all three cases, all of the cases would be transferred to Boston, where it would go before one judge and he would receive just one sentence.

However, all three cases could not be transferred as promised, resulting in two separate convictions, Gonzalez said. He contends in his petition that he would not have agreed to plead guilty if he had known his cases could not be consolidated as promised.

"I gained absolutely nothing by accepting the plea agreement," he said. "Because I relied on the promises of my attorney and the government that could not be carried out, I did not knowingly and voluntarily enter into the plea agreement," he said.

The only reason that he was even arrested in the first place was because of evidence found on a computer owned by Maksym Yastremskiy, a Ukrainian gang member who had previously been arrested in Turkey, Gonzalez said.

Yastremskiy was tortured into decrypting the data on his computer by Turkish authorities, so the information gathered from his computer should have been suppressed, he claimed.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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