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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.
Then he would help himself to glass plates of powder, each thoughtfully cut into letters for easy identification: "E" for Ecstasy, "C" for coke.
Photos: Inside the Wild Lifestyle of the Hackers Who Pulled Off History's Greatest Cybercrime Albert's two friends were in no shape to think about work.
When Albert Gonzalez was 12, he bought a computer with the allowance he had saved up working for his father, a landscaper.
But Albert wasn't just a typical misfit hacker.
They'd been high all weekend long — on Ecstasy, coke, mushrooms and acid — so there seemed little harm in doing one last bump of Special K while they packed up to leave their ,000-a-night duplex in South Beach.
For the past three days, the three friends had barely bothered leaving their hotel, as a dozen club kids in town for Winter Music Conference, the annual festival that draws DJs and ravers from all over the world, flocked to their luxury suite to partake of the drug smorgasbord laid out on the coffee table.
The whites of his brown eyes had gone veiny from the K, but he was still the ringleader, still in control. He even had an insurance policy, one designed to keep him a step ahead of the federal agents charged with tracking cybercrime: For the past four years, Albert had been working as an informant for the Secret Service, helping federal agents to identify and bust other rogue hackers.
Stephen somehow managed to climb the suite's glassed-in staircase and sit down in front of the laptop, but nothing he saw on the screen made any sense — his brain was scrambled beyond comprehension. His double life as a snitch gave him an inside look at how the feds try to safeguard the nation's computer data — and reinforced his own sense of superiority.