The Ann Arbor News Staff and The Associated Press report:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A Whitmore Lake man was sentenced to nine years in federal prison Wednesday for hacking into the national computer system of Lowe’s hardware stores and trying to steal customers’ credit card information.

The government said it is the longest prison term ever handed down in a computer crime case in the United States.

Brian Salcedo, 21, who was already on probation for hacking into an Ann Arbor Internet provider’s system four years ago, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy and other hacking charges.

Salcedo’s sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Lacy Thornburg, exceeds that given to the hacker Kevin Mitnick, who spent more than 51/2 years behind bars, according to a Justice Department Web site that tracks cyber-crime prosecutions. Mitnick led the FBI on a three-year manhunt that ended in 1995 and is said to have cost companies millions of dollars by stealing their software and altering computer information.

“I think the massive amount of potential loss that these defendants could have imposed was astounding, so that’s what caused us to seek a substantial sentence against Mr. Salcedo,” federal prosecutor Matthew Martens said.

Two other Michigan men are awaiting sentencing in the Lowe’s case. One of them, Adam Timmins, of Waterford Township, became one of the first people convicted of “wardriving,” in which hackers go around with an antenna, searching for vulnerable wireless Internet connections.

Prosecutors said the three men tapped into the wireless network of a Lowe’s store in Southfield used that connection to enter the chain’s central computer system in North Wilkesboro, N.C., and installed a program to capture credit card information.

Lowe’s officials said the men did not obtain any such information.

The case was prosecuted in Charlotte because it is home to an FBI cyber-crime task force.

At the time of his arrest, Salcedo was completing three years probation on charges that he hacked into the system of ArborNet, a nonprofit Internet message board and Web forum in Ann Arbor in 2000. He was sentenced in December 2000 on the charges brought by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and ordered not to go online while on probation.

Salcedo, who was 17 at the time, was accused of stealing passwords and reading other users’ e-mail messages. ArborNet had about 3,000 subscribers when he hacked into the company’s system in May 2000, crippling it until early July of that year.

© 2004 Ann Arbor News.