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Feds recommend lenience for LulzSec hacker 'Sabu'

Prior to his sentencing Tuesday, prosecutors say that the hacker-turned-informant has already done his time.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka "Sabu," will get a reduced sentence for signing a plea agreement and serving as an informant.
Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka "Sabu." Screenshot by CNET

LulzSec hacker Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka "Sabu," may walk out of court a free man on Tuesday.

In a memo filed this week in a US district court, prior to Monsegur's scheduled sentencing on May 27, government attorneys say that because of his "extremely valuable and productive" work as an informant for law enforcement, Monsegur should be spared a long prison term.

Instead, they recommend a sentence of time served. That means the seven months Monsegur spent in jail in 2012, after he violated a plea bargain by making "unauthorized online postings." The memo notes that under United States Sentencing Guidelines, Monsegur faces a term of about 21 to 26 years.

LulzSec's cheeky mascot

Monsegur pleaded guilty to charges of hacking, credit card fraud, and identity theft in 2011 not long after he was outed as a member of LulzSec and approached by FBI agents. LulzSec was the group behind a whirlwind run of hacking exploits that same year that involved the likes of Sony, the CIA, the US Senate, and FBI partner Infragard. The group's brash and taunting style grabbed headlines and made its mustachioed and monocled mascot a fixture on news websites.

Prosecutors had previously praised Monsegur's role as an informant, saying during a secret bail hearing in 2011 that he had sometimes worked overnight communicating online with co-conspirators to help law enforcement build cases against them. A Wall Street Journal story that reported on the hearing also quoted a source as saying that information provided by Monsegur had helped federal agents prevent 300 attacks planned by other hackers.

The sentencing memo filed this week says Monsegur's cooperation was instrumental in the arrest of Jeremy Hammond, who's currently serving a 10-year prison term for hacking into global intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting in December 2011.

"Monsegur's consistent and corroborated historical information, coupled with his substantial proactive cooperation and other evidence developed in the case, contributed directly to the identification, prosecution, and conviction of eight of his major co-conspirators, including Hammond, who at the time of his arrest was the FBI's number one cybercriminal target in the world," the memo says.

The memo also says Monsegur "provided crucial, detailed information regarding computer intrusions committed by [hacking groups associated with Anonymous], including how the attacks occurred, which members were involved, and how the computer systems were exploited once breached...the costs associated with repairing these attacks ran into the tens of millions of dollars."

You can read the memo in full below.

"Sabu" sentencing memo May 2014