Rare Book E-List Owner Indicted in Theft of Amazon E-Mails

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A Massachusetts man has been indicted earlier this month on two counts of criminal conspiracy for allegedly intercepting e-mail messages that Amazon.com sent to its book dealer clients.


Bradford Councilman, who operated Interloc Inc., one of the earliest e-mail lists for rare and out-of-print book dealers, was charged with stealing the content from Amazon e-mails to develop a "most wanted" list of books and to gain insight into his competitors. Councilman also ran an Internet service provider called Valinet.


Amazon would not comment on the case.


According to the indictment, Councilman instructed an employee of his ISP to write a computer program that would intercept e-mail messages from Amazon to rare book dealers that were customers of Amazon.com and Interloc. The FBI said that between January and June 1998, Interloc intercepted thousands of e-mail messages sent by Amazon to its book dealers.


Councilman faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 if convicted.


Last year Michael Warchut, the Valinet employee who wrote the computer program that intercepted the Amazon e-mails, was fined $2,000 and sentenced to two years' probation for his involvement in the scheme, according to the Boston office of the FBI.


Online bookseller Alibris Inc., which specializes in selling hard-to-find books, was launched in November 1998 from the remnants of Interloc. The company agreed in 1999 to pay $250,000 to settle federal conspiracy charges stemming from Interloc's scheme.


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