Bagman for TJX Hacker Gonzalez Is Sentenced to Prison and Fined
While Albert Gonzalez, the convicted ringleader of a major hacking operation that cost credit unions millions of dollars, has drawn most of the attention since his arrest and trials, he did not act alone and his co-conspirators have also been feeling the wrath of justice.
The latest is Humza Zaman, 33, former network programmer for Barclay's Bank. According to court documents, Zaman pleaded guilty to being part of the back-end, money laundering segment of the Gonzalez operation rather than the up front part that hacked into retailers' Web systems and stole credit card numbers.
For his various parts in the Gonzalez schemes, Zaman received a sentence of almost four years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $75,000. In addition, Zaman must disclose his sentences to any potential employer who might hire him for a computer programming job, though he was not barred from using computers.
Prosecutors charged Zaman with helping Gonzalez repatriate American currency that purchasers of the stolen card data used to pay for the information.
"In late 2005 and early 2006, Zaman traveled to California at Gonzalez's direction on approximately three occasions," the prosecutors said in a memo that supported their recommendation that Zaman serve 46 months in federal prison with other penalties.
"There, he met with an unknown man of apparent Eastern European descent. On each occasion, Zaman picked up between $50,000 and $370,000 in currency. Zaman then put the currency, minus his cut, in Federal Express boxes and shipped the money using a fictitious name to Gonzalez in Miami," the prosecutors added.
In addition, prosecutors said Zaman used ATM cards linked to the accounts of fictitious or unrelated people to withdraw and repatriate at least $38,000 and send the money, minus a cut, to Gonzalez. He also picked up money for shipment to Gonzalez in New York. In most cases, Zaman was paid roughly 10% of the total amount being shipped, according to court documents.
Prosecutors noted that Zaman was in many ways not an obvious candidate for participating in an illegal scheme.
"His background has many of the earmarks of healthy childhood, sought-after opportunity and white-collar success," the prosecutors noted. "As a child he read a lot, had lots of friends and was a member of the chess, debate and math clubs. As an adult, he progressed through a series of jobs with increasing responsibility and more than quadrupled his yearly salary from approximately $30,000 per year to $130,000 (plus bonus) between 1999 and the time of his arrest," they said. "But, he enjoyed partying and using expensive recreational drugs when he wasn't working. So he needed cash beyond his six-figure legitimate income. And, for this, he actively helped launder approximately $600,000-$800,000 of the Gonzalez organization's criminal proceeds for a cut of the action."
In response to media stories of about his conviction and sentencing, Zaman said the prosecutors had "exaggerated" his role in the scheme and his use of illicit drugs despite his guilty plea. Media stories reported that he contended he had only picked up cash on several occasions for Gonzalez and that he had not known of the thieving or hacking.
But the prosecutors contended in court documents that Zaman "incontrovertibly" knew that Gonzalez was up to no good and even provided him data from Barclay's that he thought might be useful to the scheme.