AOL worker arrested in alleged spam scheme

Employee is charged with stealing 92 million AOL customer screen names and selling them to an Internet marketer.

U.S. investigators said on Wednesday they had arrested an America Online employee for allegedly stealing the Internet provider's customer list and selling it to a purveyor of spam e-mail.

Jason Smathers of Harpers Ferry, W. Va., has been charged with stealing a list of 92 million AOL customer screen names and selling them to Internet marketer Sean Dunaway of Las Vegas, said David Kelley, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Dunaway, who also has been arrested, used the list to promote his online gambling operation and sold the list to other spammers for $52,000, Kelley said.

Both men face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 under a national antispam law.

Working as an engineer in AOL's Dulles, Va., headquarters, Smathers, 24, was able to access screen names, zip codes and credit card types, though not credit card numbers, of the company's 30 million customers, Kelley said.

A search of Smathers' computer showed he had discussed ways to spam AOL members in April 2003, the complaint said.

AOL said it discovered the activity during a spam investigation. Smathers has been fired, the company said.

"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.

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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