Hacker sent to prison for stealing credit card information | U.S. District Court

A Maryland man who hacked into point of sale computer systems at businesses in the Seattle area and across the country, was sentenced today to 84 months in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

Christopher A. Schroebel, 21, of Keedysville, Maryland, hacked into the point of sale computers in a restaurant in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, and a restaurant supply store in Shoreline, Washington.

The investigation revealed that since the hacking began in January 2011, Schroebel had possession of at least 86,400 stolen credit card numbers, including both card numbers that he himself stole, and card numbers stolen by others.  Schroebel pleaded guilty to Bank Fraud, Obtaining Information from a Protected Computer, Intentional Damage to a Protected Computer, Access Device Fraud, and Aggravated Identity Theft in May 2012.  At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “It’s significant how devastating these actions are on small businesses.”

According to records filed in the case, Schroebel inserted malicious code onto the victim’s computers that copied the personal information of the credit card transactions at the point of sale terminals.  The malicious code transmitted the information to a Kansas server controlled by Schroebel.  Schroebel conspired with Dutch citizen David Benjamin Schrooten, 21, to sell the card numbers via a “carding website.”  Schrooten is prominent in the international hacking community.  He was arrested in Romania and was extradited in June 2012.  Schrooten is scheduled for trial in February 2013.  One of the customers who purchased and used the stolen credit card numbers, rap artist Charles Tony Williamson, 33, aka ‘Guerilla Black’ is also indicted for bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and computer hacking related crimes for his role in the fraud scheme.  His current trial date is in September 2012.

Credit card fraud costs financial institutions $40 billion annually.  In the Western District of Washington more than 180,000 stolen credit card numbers have been identified in recent cyber cases.

Prosecutors in the case highlighted how crime is moving into cyberspace.  “The crimes that were committed in this case reflect these new realities of the digital age.  They are a serious threat to the viability of small businesses everywhere, as well as to the security of all of their customers, employees, and owners.  The fact that hacking crimes can be committed from afar, and without immediate threats of direct physical harm to the victims does not diminish their financial and emotional impact,” prosecutors told Judge Martinez.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force and Seattle Police Department as part of the Task Force.   The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Warma.

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