AOL Employee Arrested in Spam Sting

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An AOL employee was arrested this week, accused of stealing lists of AOL e-mail addresses and selling them to bulk commercial e-mailers.


The U.S. attorney in New York said Jason Smathers, 24, an AOL software engineer, in May 2003 stole lists of 92 million AOL screen names that he then sold to Sean Dunaway, a Las Vegas man. Dunaway used the lists to promote his online gambling site and sold them to other e-mailers for $52,000, according to the complaint. Smathers sold Dunaway an updated list of e-mail addresses for $100,000 in March, prosecutors said.


Both men were charged with felonies under the CAN-SPAM Act. Each faces up to five years in prison and fines of $250,000.


AOL said it uncovered the alleged employee involvement during its own civil spam litigation. The company said it alerted law enforcement officials and has terminated Smathers. AOL said the stolen customer information did not include passwords or credit card information.


"We deeply regret what has taken place and are thoroughly reviewing and strengthening our internal procedures as a result of this investigation and arrest," the company said in a statement.


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