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Hacker Facing Decades in Prison Deserves Break, U.S. Says

An admitted hacker with the group Anonymous who faces more than 26 years in prison deserves a dramatically reduced sentence because of “extremely valuable” aid he provided in U.S. investigations, prosecutors said.

The government asked the court not to impose a mandatory two-year prison term for Hector Xavier Monsegur who, under the alias “Sabu,” worked secretly as an informant and helped agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation prevent at least 300 separate computer hacks, according to a prosecutor’s memo to the Manhattan federal judge who will sentence him.

Monsegur, a former member of the Anonymous, Internet Feds and LulzSec hacker groups, began cooperating with U.S. investigators immediately after his June 2011 arrest, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore said. He then worked “around the clock” to inform on his colleagues, and even helped gather evidence in cyber-attacks on a foreign government, the prosecutor said.

While federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, call for a prison term of 21 to 26 years, U.S. probation officials recommend a term of probation, Pastore said. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska is scheduled to sentence Monsegur on May 27.

Evidence Monsegur developed with federal investigators while working secretly for the U.S. led to the prosecution of at least five hackers, including Jeremy Hammond, who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for an attack on the intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor, and for interfering with eight other computer systems, Pastore said. The prosecutor said that before Monsegur’s cooperation, he was the only member of a crew of hackers behind a series of cyber-attacks who had been identified by authorities.

“Had Monsegur delayed his decision to cooperate, his efforts would have been far less fruitful,” Pastore said. “In fact, LulzSec had developed an action plan to destroy evidence and disband if the group determined that any of its members had been arrested.”

Monsegur endured risks and hardships because of his cooperation, and he and his family had to be relocated by the FBI when his identity as a government informant was made public, Pastore said. Monsegur was also threatened and menaced by some who incorrectly speculated that he assisted in the investigation and prosecution of Silk Road, the billion-dollar online website where customers used Bitcoins to buy and sell drugs, the prosecutor said.

The case is U.S. v. Monsegur, 11-cr-oo666, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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