- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — An America Online software engineer stole a list of 92 million customer screen names that was eventually used to send massive amounts of e-mail spam, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

Jason Smathers, 24, was arrested at his home in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and was charged with conspiracy.

According to charges made in a criminal complaint, Mr. Smathers, working at AOL offices in Sterling, Va., stole the list and sold it to a Las Vegas man, Sean Dunaway, who used it to promote an Internet gambling operation and sold it to spammers.

Mr. Dunaway, 21, also was arrested at his home and was charged with conspiracy.

Lawyers for the men were not immediately available to comment.

Mr. Smathers appeared in a Virginia federal court, while Mr. Dunaway will appear in court today, interim U.S. Attorney David Kelley said.

Each man could face up to five years in prison and at least $250,000 in fines if convicted.

Mr. Smathers was not authorized to have access to the screen-name list, which is kept in Sterling, but used another employee’s access code last year to steal it, prosecutors said.

He compiled a list that also included customer ZIP codes and credit-card types, prosecutors said.

AOL said it did not appear that Mr. Smathers had gained access to credit-card numbers, which the company keeps in a separate facility.

“We deeply regret what has taken place and are thoroughly reviewing and strengthening our internal procedures as a result of this investigation and arrest,” AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said.

Mr. Graham said the company fired Mr. Smathers yesterday as the charges were filed.

Prosecutors did not say how much they believe Mr. Dunaway paid Mr. Smathers for the list, but that Mr. Dunaway later paid him $100,000 for an updated version of it.

The complaint charged that Mr. Dunaway then offered the list to spammers, charging them $2,000 for lists containing names beginning with a single letter of the alphabet or $52,000 for the entire list.

At least one spammer used the list to send advertising for herbal sexual enhancement pills, prosecutors said.

AOL, owned by Time Warner Inc., has about 32 million customers worldwide, Mr. Graham said. Many customers register several different screen names for family members or themselves.

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