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But even stoned on industrial-grade horse tranquilizers, Albert Gonzalez remained focused on business — checking his laptop constantly, keeping tabs on the rogue operators he employed in Turkey and Latvia and China, pushing, haranguing, issuing orders into his cellphone in a steady voice."Let's see if this Russian asshole has what I need," he'd say calmly.By the time he graduated high school, in 1999, Albert had already hacked into the websites of NASA and the government of India — cyberfeats that had prompted visits by Miami detectives and the FBI, who warned him to cut it out.At this point, Albert wasn't trying to cash in on his skills as a hacker; he simply relished the intellectual puzzle of network security, the powerful rush of picking the locks of high-tech vaults.
And with the guys, he was always the man with the plan.
Patrick Toey, 22, Albert's most loyal foot soldier, was lazing around the suite, staring at the Miami seascape through the two-story picture windows, letting his thoughts drift."Listen, I need you to do this now," Albert was saying in a firm voice as he set his laptop on the desk in the master bedroom upstairs. The task at hand seemed impossible, given their chemical impairment, but Stephen was notorious among hackers for his ability to dash off intricate code that could blast through even the most secure computer networks.
For weeks, he had been badgering Stephen, known in hacker circles as the "Unix Terrorist," to refine a crucial bit of code for him. Finally, after 10 minutes of following Stephen's directions, Patrick hit the "return" button and declared the program functional.
"It was already like an obsessive vice," his mother, Maria, would later tell a judge.
By the time he entered South Miami Senior High, the once-outgoing Albert had turned isolated and untalkative, his grades plummeting as he neglected his homework in favor of the huge programming textbook he had bought.
"If you take me, I'm not going to talk," he warned.