NEW YORK (AP) - The American computer hacker who shook the Internet underground by becoming an FBI informant didn't just break the law on the Web: He also carried a gun and was involved in drug dealing.
Court documents unsealed this week show that in exchange for his cooperation, federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute hacker Hector Xavier Monsegur for a litany of other crimes he admitted committing over the years, including his attempted sale of a pound of marijuana in 2010 and another 4 pounds in 2003.
They also agreed not to pursue charges for other crimes, including gun possession, purchasing stolen jewelry and electronics, running up $15,000 on a former employer's credit card and referring people seeking prescription pain pills to illegal drug suppliers. The court papers said Monsegur would also avoid prosecution for hacking into the website of an online casino.
Monsegur, who was known on the Internet as a shadowy figure called "Sabu," signed the cooperation agreement on Aug. 15. By then, he had already been working closely with the FBI for two months, often pulling late hours exchanging messages with fellow hackers while federal agents watched.
The 28-year-old New Yorker, who operated from a sixth-floor apartment in a dilapidated city housing project, has already pleaded guilty to a string of computer crimes, including conspiring with the "hacktivist" groups Anonymous, Internet Feds and Lulzsec, and breaking into the websites of media and Internet security companies.
His cooperation with federal agents led to five arrests, announced this week, and the breakup of Lulzsec, a group he had helped create.
Monsegur's deal with prosecutors could still leave him exposed to substantial jail time. The agreement, filed with the court in August but not made public until Friday, said he faced a minimum mandatory sentence of up to two years in jail, and more than 122 years in prison if a judge gave him the maximum punishment for every count.
His extensive work with the FBI, however, makes a harsh sentence like that extremely unlikely.
If Monsegur continues to work with the government, prosecutors agreed to dismiss many other charges against him, including allegations that he hacked into the computer systems at PayPal, Visa and Mastercard, attacked website sites operated by the governments of Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria and Zimbabwe, and was involved in cyber assaults that attempted to cripple the websites of several global media and entertainment companies.
Lastly, the deal said that if Monsegur began fearing for his own safety, he might be enrolled in the federal witness protection program, and his "family and certain loved ones ... relocated under a new identity."
"It is understood that the defendant's truthful cooperation with this office is likely to reveal activities of certain individuals who might use violence, force and intimidation against the defendant, his family and loved ones," the agreement said.
Monsegur's lawyers have repeatedly declined requests for comment, and attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.
Ventura County Star 10th March 2012
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