Three men arrested in connection with Heartland breach

Trio arrested in Florida after allegedly using stolen credit card numbers for purchases at local Wal-Marts, officials said.

Authorities in Florida arrested three men on fraud charges in connection with the Heartland Payment Systems Inc. data security breach.

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The three suspects were arrested Monday night after using stolen credit card numbers for purchases at local Wal-Mart stores in the Tallahassee, Fla., area, according to the Leon County Sherriff's Office in Tallahassee, Fla.

The credit card numbers used by the trio were allegedly stolen from the Heartland processing center in New Jersey, authorities said. The suspects allegedly used the stolen numbers to electronically encode Visa gift cards and buy merchandise that they sold for cash.

The Princeton, N.J.-based payment processor announced Jan. 20 that its system was breached last year when intruders installed malware that snatched data crossing the company's network.

Timothy J. Johns, 21, Jeremy A. Frazier, 20, and Tony Acreus, 20, were arrested on charges of grand theft and multiple counts of fraud. The fraud losses in Leon County have totaled more than $100,000 and are expected to be much higher as the investigation continues, officials said.

"This investigation is ongoing and will likely produce additional charges and additional arrests," Leon County Sherriff's officials said in announcing the arrests Tuesday.

Sherriff's authorities said they worked with Tallahassee police and the Secret Service to investigate the case for the past three months.

Heartland hasn't yet disclosed the number of credit cards affected but industry observers have said the breach could be larger than the TJX data security breach, in which 45.7 million credit and debit cards were stolen. Heartland serves more than 250,000 businesses and handles more than 4 billion transactions per year.

Scores of credit unions and banks are notifying customers and issuing new credit cards in the wake the intrusion.

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