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Criminal Charges: Volume III

Jeremy Simon

They say the third time’s the charm — and for my latest collection of credit card crime tales have I got a group of charming criminals for you: an informant known as “SoupNazi,” a duo who steal credit cards from hospitals and a former college basketball player who accepts a car ride in exchange for the driver’s credit card.

Never trust the ‘SoupNazi’
Did you feel that? A little bit of the love among hackers just died.

Brian Salcedo is serving a record-breaking nine years in prison for a wardriving hack attack in which Salcedo and a fellow hacker penetrated the unsecured wireless network at a Lowe’s store in Southfield, Mich., from the comfort of a Pontiac Grand Prix in the parking lot. The duo then were able to access Lowe’s servers nationwide, planting software that captured customer credit card data as it was sent from cash registers to a North Carolina processing server.

However, he might still be a free man if Salcedo had acted on his initial change of heart. “Salcedo says he started getting cold feet when he realized that Lowe’s network administrators had detected his presence on their network,” Wired reports. “He wanted to bail. But he had already lined up a buyer for the credit cards — a mysterious figure in the computer underground known as SoupNazi, who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Salcedo found out that you don’t argue with the Soup Nazi: “He insinuated threats against us, and said we had to continue doing what we were doing,” Salcedo told Wired in a phone interview from prison last Monday.

The recent federal indictments against a crew of hackers busted in the largest identity theft case in U.S. history revealed the mastermind behind those attacks to be none other than SoupNazi. Just who is he? SoupNazi is actually 27-year-old Albert Gonzalez, who also went by the monikers Cumbajohny and Segvec. “Perfecting the attack pioneered by Salcedo, Gonzalez allegedly stole at least 40 million credit and debit card numbers worth millions of dollars on the black market,” Wired says.

According to Wired, Gonzalez not only stole the identities of millions of cardholders — he also appears to have sent Salcedo up the river. “Of significance to Salcedo:  At the time Gonzalez threatened him, he was also working for the feds. Court records reveal that Gonzalez had been busted in July 2003 — three months before Salcedo’s Lowe’s hack began. At his arrest, the government admits, Gonzalez became a key informant for the U.S. Secret Service, eventually aiding in the 2004 arrest of 28 fraudsters linked to the credit card fraud supersite Shadowcrew.com,” Wired reports.

Former Justice Department cybercrime prosecutor Mark Rasch tells Wired that the revelations could mean Salcedo gets the opportunity to challenge his prison term amid the possibility of entrapment.

“His argument would basically be that … Gonzales threatened him as a government agent in order to induce him to plant the sniffer,” Rasch tells Wired. “He would not have planted the sniffer but for the threat, and his sentence was based on that.”

Will SoupNazi’s status as an informant mean Salcedo gets to go free? Stay tuned.

Hospital disorderlies
Two criminals are wanted for targeting elderly patients and visitors in a string of credit card thefts at hospitals. The credit card snatchers were caught on surveillance video at Prince William Hospital in Manassas, Va., on July 31.

“Surveillance video from the hospital in Manassas shows the first suspect walk in — walk back out — then minutes later, walk in again,” reports Arlington, Va.-based WJLA-TV. “Then comes another man a short time later. Police say the two are working together. Their target: an unsuspecting elderly woman in a waiting room.”

“While one was distracting her, the other would go into her purse and take her wallet that contains credit cards,” Sgt.Tim Neumann of the Manassas City Police Department told WJLA.

The police have linked that incident to two others in the summer and fall of 2007, as well as connecting the suspects to an incident at another at Prince William’s Potomac Hospital and possibly other thefts at hospitals and doctors’ offices on the East Coast.

Give a lift, give up your plastic
Through frightening news reports and warnings offered by friends and family, most drivers are wary of picking up hitchhikers. They have yet to become cautious about giving rides to former members of the Syracuse University basketball squad.

Josh Wright aims to change that. Wright, a one-time starter for the Syracuse Orangemen basketball team, is charged with stealing the credit card of a woman who recently gave him a ride on the New York State Thruway.

“Troopers say Wright took the woman’s credit card from her purse before she dropped him off in Westmoreland on June 24,” reports newsday.com. The best part? “Troopers say the woman knows Wright,” the Web site reports.

At least he’s talkative. Wright tried to use the stolen credit card to pay a $465 cell phone bill, according to a state police statement last Wednesday. While he is good at racking up cell phone minutes, when it came to time on the court — not so much. “A one-time starter, Wright quit the basketball team last December after his playing time was reduced to a few minutes a game,” Newsday reports.

Wright was given an appearance ticket and is due back in court Aug. 27 after he selects a lawyer.

It’s always a good time for crime stories
Let me know how plastic has played into any crime reports you have come across. The best stories get a write-up.

See related: Criminal Charges: Volume I, Criminal Charges: Volume II, Feds charge 11 in largest identity theft case in U.S. history, Notes from the underground: The next generation of carders

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My blog on wardriving made it into the commodity-themed 166th edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance, hosted by Everyday Finance. Be sure to check out the other great articles collected there.

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  • tony s

    I heard that Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts are selling Continental Credit Cards at Harrah’s Atlantic City!