updated 12/15/2004 8:09:09 PM ET 2004-12-16T01:09:09

One of three Michigan men who hacked into the national computer system of Lowe's hardware stores and tried to steal customers' credit card information was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in federal prison.

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

Brian Salcedo of Whitmore Lake, Mich., 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 5 1/2 years behind bars, according to a Justice Department Web site that tracks cyber-crime prosecutions.

"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 men are awaiting sentencing in the Lowe's case. One of them, Adam Timmins, 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, Mich., 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.

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. Victims included Motorola, Novell, Nokia and Sun Microsystems.

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