The 19 year old ringleader of a gang that used financial information stolen during the computer hacking at US retailer TJX has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $600,000 in restitution.
Irving Escobar, 19, from Miami, pleaded guilty in March to charges that he participated in a criminal operation that used counterfeit cards featuring credit card data stolen data from the TJX data breach in December 2006.
The gang is not believed to have been involved in the hacking of TJX's computer systems to steal the data.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose office prosecuted the case, says Escobar led the operation and coordinated the use of the cloned cards to purchase gift cards at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club in "a modern-day version of money laundering". The gang then redeemed these gift cards to purchase jewellery and electronic equipment.
Authorities estimated a total loss of $3 million could be attributed to the gang on a nationwide scale.
Says McCollum: "Having personally witnessed the devastation identity theft can cause on so many levels, I have pledged the full strength of my office to prosecute these criminal operations and shut them down so we can protect our citizens from this terrible form of victimisation."
Five other gang members who were accused of playing lesser roles in the operation have also pleaded guilty to similar charges in Florida courts. Dianelly Hernandez, Julio Alberti, Reinier Alvarez and Zenia Llorente were all sentenced to probation in August. Escobar's mother, Nair Alvarez, pleaded guilty in March and was deported to Venezuela.
Banks across the US were forced to re-issue cards after fraudsters managed to steal more than 45.7 million credit and debit card numbers over a period of more than 18 months by hacking into TJX's internal computer network.
Last month an investigator with the US Postal Inspection Service said a Ukrainian man arrested in Turkey was suspected of selling some of the card data stolen in the TJX hack, although he was not thought to have been involved in the actual hacking.
Authorities investigating the TJX breach hope the arrest of Maksym Yastremskiy in the Turkish city of Kemer, will help track down the hackers.