Former Home Depot employee Daniel Marquadt said he had been struggling with financial hardship and a painkiller addiction when he stole thousands of customers’ credit card numbers and attempted to sell them on an online black market.
Standing in a federal court in Austin on Friday, the Round Rock man took responsibility for actions from which he said he had never profited. But U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks called his crime a serious one and sentenced Marquadt to 18 months in prison, citing what he said could have been much more harmful ramifications had the 33-year-old not been caught when he was.
He is to serve three years’ probation and pay a fine of more than $5,000 upon his release.
“It doesn’t matter the reason, you did it — you committed the crime,” Sparks said. “Mr. Marquadt must pay. Everybody who commits a crime must pay.”
Marquadt, who went by the screen name “Admiral Chucky,” told authorities he took about 20,000 credit cards numbers in May 2014 after he wrote a computer program for Home Depot to help with its tool rental system and soon realized he could gain access to the personal data of thousands of customers.
He placed advertisements for the sale of 19,200 numbers on Evolution Market, a site known for allowing the sale of stolen goods through the digital currency bitcoin. In a post on May 16, 2014, he said he was selling the numbers for 60 cents each and had the ability to sell more than 10,000, according to records filed in the Western District of Texas.
But investigators tracked Marquadt down to his Round Rock home when he chatted about giving away a “trial batch” with an undercover agent based in Atlanta, the records state. Authorities said Marquadt fully cooperated with the investigation, allowing them to prevent the private information from being used.
They seized his computers, phone, thumb drive and other electronic equipment and found he had collected about 36,700 credit card numbers, the records state. He pleaded guilty in November to a count of trafficking in stolen devices.
In court Friday, he asked that he be allowed to continue working as a software engineer to support his wife and unborn child. “The biggest regret that I have is the pain and emotional hardship I have caused my friends and my family,” he said.
Major retailers such as Home Depot have been under fire over the past two years for their failure to protect sensitive consumer information amid rising security breaches and cyberattacks. But Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said the store was constantly enhancing its security measures and described Marquadt’s actions as an “isolated incident involving one rogue employee.”
“He was in a position of trust that he abused in only a two-week period before being caught,” Holmes said. “Within hours, we obtained the evidence that allowed the Secret Service to obtain the search warrant for his home.”
Tricia Bailey, a researcher at the Center for Identity at the University of Texas, said there was little consumers could do to protect themselves against a security breach like Marquadt’s. But she said customers should check their bank accounts and credit reports often and advised against using a debit card for online transactions.
“They can clean out your entire bank account,” she said. “With a credit card, you are never on the hook for more than $50. It can keep you a little safer.”