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Teen guilty in credit card theft

The Baltimore Sun

An Edgewater teenager who infiltrated Army computers and was part of a virtual hacking group that charged $1.4 million on others' credit cards in 2003 has pleaded guilty to 11 criminal counts.

William Matthew Byrum, who was 16 when he learned hacking how-tos in chat rooms, pleaded guilty Friday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to one count of illegally accessing a computer and 10 counts of fraudulently using stolen personal information to spend between $3,000 and $4,000 on a PlayStation, T-shirts and more.

Under an agreement in which he was prosecuted as an adult, Byrum, 19, was sentenced by Judge Joseph P. Manck to one year of house arrest and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution while serving five years' probation. An additional five years of jail time was suspended.

In December 2003, the Army reported that 14 computers at Fort Monroe, Va., had been hacked into and software allowing outside access was surreptitiously placed in them, said Assistant State's Attorney Michael Dunty. No confidential information was compromised, he said.

Investigators traced the breach to Byrum's home, among others. When seized, his computer had 2,500 stolen credit card numbers logged in, he said.

Byrum and others ordered merchandise, delivered to homes for sale near Byrum, the prosecutor said. He said Byrum removed his purchases and "sent it on to the next person."

Dunty said Byrum agreed to participate in a federal sting that netted a Kansas man, William Decker, who is serving five years in prison for his role in the thefts.

Defense lawyer Ronald Bergman said Byrum did not develop the hacking programs but was an observer in hackers' chat rooms for a long time before participating.

The federal government spent more than $100,000 to identify the problem and craft software repairs to Army computers, and on the probe into the credit card information thefts, Dunty said.

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