Infamous T.J.Maxx hacker Albert Gonzalez is seeking to have his guilty plea withdrawn and conviction overturned based on his claim that he was acting on behalf of the federal government.
Gonzales was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison for stealing credit and debit card information and hacking into the networks of several large retailers, including T.J.Maxx, BJ's Wholesale Club, Office Max, Barnes & Noble, and Hannaford Bros.
He was also convicted in the system breach at Heartland Payment Systems, one of the nation's largest card payment processors.
Gonzales asserts that his execution of one of the biggest breaches of financial data in history was done under the direction of the Secret Service in his role as a paid informant.
"I still believe that I was acting on behalf of the United States Secret Service and that I was authorized and directed to engage in the conduct I committed as part of my assignment to gather intelligence and seek out international cybercriminals. I now know and understand that I have been used as a scapegoat to cover someone's mistakes," Gonzalez wrote in a petition filed with the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts in March.
Gonzales claims he was not informed by his attorney of the option to offer a "Public Authority" defense prior to pleading guilty in the case. The "Public Authority" defense allows defendants to argue that they committed crimes under the direction of a government authority.
Gonzales' former attorney, Rene Palomino, expressed doubt about the new claims and the likelihood the defense could have been applied to the case.
In the petition, Gonzales also claims that he was overwhelmed by the sudden attention and accolades showered upon him by federal officials, further emboldening him to carry out the the crimes listed in the indictment.
"All of this inflated my ego and made me feel very important and made me feel like I was really a part of the Secret Service with the backing and support of the government agency. One day I was unknown and nothing and the next day I am being hailed as a genius and giving presentations to Secret Service agents in Washington, D.C. All of this was mind-boggling for me," Gonzalez said in the petition to the court.
The Secret Service declined to comment on the petition and Gonzales' claims that he was operating under federal authority.