TAMPA — A former employee of a St. Petersburg check verification company was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison Thursday for stealing millions of Americans' personal financial information from a database and selling it.
William "Gary" Sullivan, 54, of Largo also was ordered to pay more than $3.97-million in restitution.
Sullivan pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of fraud activity connected with computers. U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday gave Sullivan 57 months for each count but ordered that he serve the sentences concurrently.
Sullivan worked for nine years as a database analyst for Certegy Check Services, which advises retailers whether a customer's check is likely to bounce. From about 2002 until June 2007, Sullivan stole customer information and resold it to others, including telemarketers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Palermo said investigators never uncovered information to suggest that third parties who bought the data used it to incur credit charges under the victims' identities.
"Well, Mr. Sullivan, you've created quite a stir, and over a long period of time caused a lot of people a lot of trouble," Merryday said. "I'm certainly glad that the offense was not worse and its victims were not more seriously penalized than they were."
Prosecutors said Sullivan made nearly $600,000 by selling the personal records. Sullivan said he did it because he was desperate. His wife was unemployed and he had no money in his 401(k), he said.
"I (in) no way intended to cause anybody any grief or hardship," Sullivan said in court. "Every week it happened, I regretted it … but it didn't stop me from doing it."
Sullivan's actions caused Certegy to notify about 8.4-million Americans — including 460,000 Floridians — that their data had been methodically stolen over a five-year period.
Seven class-action lawsuits resulted, and six remain, which are in various stages of being settled, Palermo said.
The people who sued Certegy over their information being sold have won a judgment for attorneys' fees of about $2.35-million, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said victims included residents of all 50 states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and military personnel overseas.