TJX, Heartland Hacker Was on Secret Service Payroll as Informant

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When Albert Gonzales pleaded guilty last year to charges arising from data breaches at TJX, Hannaford Bros., 7-Eleven and Heartland Payment Systems, among others, we knew the guy responsible for some of the largest data thefts in the country was finally behind bars. But did you know that he committed those crimes while he was working as a confidential informant for the U.S. Secret Service?


Wired reports that the Secret Service paid Gonzales as much as $75,000 a year to help catch bank card thieves. The feds stopped using his services, of course, once they discovered he was also stealing card data - from hundreds of millions of cards - on the side.


Former federal prosecutor Mark Rasch told Wired:

It's a significant amount of money to pay an informant but it's not an outrageous amount to pay if the guy was working full time and delivering good results.

An informant is paid according to his technical skill and the amount of risk he and/or his family take on as a result of the work, as well as whether the government stands a chance of recovering stolen funds as a result of the work. Informants are typically paid in cash. Two agents are present at the time payment is made, and the amount of and reason for the payment is recorded in the case file, according to guidelines adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Moreover, informants are told at the time of payment that the money may be taxable and should be reported to the Internal Revenue Service as income.


Gonzales is scheduled to be sentenced this week for his role in the data breaches mentioned above. He is expected to receive anywhere from 17 to 25 years in prison.