TJX data criminal gets five years in prison

Floridian used stolen card numbers to buy jewelry, electronic equipment

The leader of an identity theft ring that stole credit card numbers from TJX has been sentenced to five years in prison and fined US$600,000 (AU$713,010).

Irving Escobar of Miami, Fla., pleaded guilty to charges of an "organized scheme to defraud" in March and was sentenced this week, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced Thursday.

Escobar and his team used stolen data to make counterfeit credit cards, which they used to buy gift cards at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. They redeemed the gift cards for jewelry and electronic equipment in what McCollum calls "a modern-day version of money laundering" that resulted in a loss of US$3 million nationwide.

TJX, the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and A.J. Wright stores, reported that 45.6 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen in a 2005 data breach, and another 130,000 were stolen in December 2006.

Escobar was tied to the December 2006 data breach, the Florida AG's office says.

Five co-defendants, including his mother, pleaded guilty to similar charges involving organized fraud and grand theft.

Co-defendants Dianelly Hernadez, Julio Alberti, Reinier Alvarez and Zenia Llorente were sentenced to probation last month. Escobar's mother, Nair Alvarez, was deported to Veezuela.

TJX "believes it may never be possible to determine the exact number of individuals whose personal information was stolen," the AG's office says.

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