(POLITICO) -- On a warm summer’s day in 2008, police spotted a man walking outside his apartment in Santa Clara, California, one of the many bedroom communities spread across Silicon Valley. Undercover FBI officers saw him outside the building and began following him on foot, radioing to their colleagues nearby. The man saw the agents, and so he began to walk quickly. They followed suit.
After months of tracking him via sting bank accounts and confidential informants, the officers had their man. He had told the apartment complex’s manager that he was Steven Travis Brawner, software engineer: a profile that fit right in with many other tenants in the area. But at the time of his arrest, officers didn’t know his real name: After watching his activities at a distance, they called him simply the “Hacker.” Between 2005 and 2008, federal investigators believed that the Hacker and two other men filed over 1,900 fake tax returns online, yielding $4 million sent to over 170 bank accounts.