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Forwarded from: Justin Lundy
By Tim Elfrink
Miami New Times
May 20 2010
Andres Torres was dozing on a couch with the blinds drawn when he heard
a chorus of boots pounding the stairs. The pudgy retiree with a fringe
of white hair hobbled toward the door just as quiet settled over the
yellow building of one-bedroom condos. In the distance, cars hummed off
the Palmetto Expressway and onto Bird Road.
Then, suddenly, a burst of husky voices sounded in the open-air hallway.
A battering ram splintered his neighbor's door. Torres scuffled toward
the sound, his mouth hanging open.
Federal agents in riot gear swarmed past.
"Are there terrorists in there?" Torres asked. An agent sent him back
inside. The retiree watched through a crack in the blinds as the feds
hauled out a cash-counting machine and computer gear.
It was May 7, 2008, just before 5 p.m. With military precision, agents
at that moment were raiding five other homes across Miami-Dade. There
was a red-tile-roofed house in Coral Gables, a one-story home in
Pinecrest, and an apartment just south of Killian Parkway. A hydroponic
marijuana grow house in West Kendall was also targeted. Cops even burst
into Room 1508 at the National Hotel, a celebrity hangout at 17th Street
and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.
The lawmen confiscated more than a dozen computers and $422,000 in cash.
They found evidence on the hard drives linking the computers to massive
online thefts from huge companies such as T.J. Maxx, 7-Eleven, and Dave
& Buster's. More than 170 million credit card numbers worth hundreds of
millions of dollars had been stolen by a criminal ring stretching from
the United States to Latvia, from Ukraine to Thailand.
It was the biggest identity theft case ever prosecuted. And at its heart
were four gifted hackers born and raised in South Florida: Albert
Gonzalez, AKA "soupnazi," had broken into NASA's systems as a teen and
later worked undercover for the Secret Service; Jonathan James, known as
"c0mrade" earned national fame at age 16 as the youngest hacker
incarcerated; and James's best friend at Palmetto Senior High,
Christopher Scott, was in custody too, as was Stephen Watt, AKA "Unix
Terrorist," a blindingly smart, seven-foot-tall prodigy from Melbourne.
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