Ex-AOL employee gets jail for selling data

Aug. 18, 2005 at 7:02 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- At a hearing in New York, a fired America Online engineer has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for selling 92 million AOL e-mail addresses.

Investigators say Jason Smathers of Harpers Ferry, W. Va., used AOL instant messaging to discuss the transaction with Sean Dunaway, the Los Angeles Times reports. Dunaway, who has also been charged, allegedly paid Smathers more than $100,000 for lists of AOL members and their e-mails, using the information to promote his online gambling business and to sell to other spammers.

In a second sale, Dunaway allegedly purchased not only the names and e-mail addresses of AOL subscribers, but also their telephone numbers, zip codes and credit card companies. Credit card numbers, held in a separate data base, were not included.

Smathers pleaded guilty. In a letter to U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, he apologized, the BBC reported.

"Cyberspace is a new and strange place," Smathers wrote. "I was good at navigating in that frontier and I became an outlaw."

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