United States V. Watt, 707 F. Supp.2d 149

2818 words - 11 pages

United States v. Watt, 707 F. Supp. 2d 149Executive SummaryIn United States v. Watt, the government was attempting to punish a fairly unchartered illegal crime of hacking and identity theft in the cyber environment. Stephen Watt was a brainy software engineer who got satisfaction out of writing programs that could infiltrate company's information system. His childhood friend Alberto Gonzalez wanted to take the information obtained by Watt's programs and turn them into monetary profits. In essence Watt was the brains of the operation and Gonzalez was the brawn. Watt build infiltrating programs and simply handed them off to Gonzalez in which Gonzalez would use the programs to hack into major retailers such as T.J. Maxx, Dave & Buster's, and Barnes and Noble to name a few. The first incident of this kind took place in 2005 when Gonzalez enlisted the help of Watt to make a program to hack in a local university's pay system.The United States wanted to try both Gonzalez and Watt as equals within the scheme of the investigation; however Gonzalez had been working for the government as an informant and had a plea agreement in place that handcuffed his ability to negotiate on the terms of his penalties. Watts on the other hand wanted to contest that his actions in building the programs were nothing more than juvenile, immature, and a challenge. Watt furthermore contested that he never benefited monetarily from the activities that were taking place and that he did not know what Gonzalez was using the information for once he obtain it. Under U.S.S.G. appendix C, amendment. 617 it states that the value of the property stolen plays an important role in determining sentences for theft and other offenses involving stolen property because it is an indicator of both the harm to the victim and the gain to the defendant.Watt's attorneys contested that because their client did not have any idea of what acts Gonzalez was partaking in that he should not be charged with the same stringiness as Gonzalez. Eventually the United States Courts agreed with Watt's attorneys and sentenced him to a short three month prison sentence and three years of probation, versus the twenty year sentence that Gonzalez received. In addition, however Watt was responsible for restitution in the amount of $175.5 million for his role in producing the programs that were responsible for stealing the information. This case shed light on the capabilities and far reaches of computer hackers and programmers in attempts to defraud United States systems.History of Credit Card FraudCredit card fraud is defined by someone who illegally obtains credit card information in efforts to purchase goods and/or services for free at the expense of other individual's financial resources. For the past two decades the occurrences of these kinds of crimes have been steadily increasing and the United States government has been increasing its efforts to combat it. One may ask how the hackers gain access to the...

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